Program Notes for Lake Effect (2012)


Lake Effect was commissioned by the Mandel Foundation and Utah Arts Festival for a premiere in June of 2012 in Salt Lake City.  As I considered what kind of piece I would write for this festival, I looked for context: the beautiful landscape of Utah, the people who settled there, and the Great Salt Lake.  I envisioned a work that would draw on the history of this state and on the unique topographical features of its environment.

The result is set of six variations based on two ideas: one of pitch and the other of rhythm. The pitches that start the piece - C, A, and B - are based on the word Ut-A-H (using German and solfeggio syllables).  These pitches slowly unfold into harmonic and melodic materials through a cycle of transpositions starting with, of course, Eb, or “eS” for the word salt.  The initial rhythm of these notes - presented very slowly - is based on the rhythm of a famous Mormon hymn: Come, Come, Ye Saints.  Both the tune of the hymn and some of its harmonic features eventually emerge later in the piece.

Overall, the work evokes an image of a storm with a lake effect.  The piece begins very quietly, with only hints of material that start to generate melodic currents.  These small “cells” soon coalesce.  At first they are playful, but then they create a very dense and forceful toccata.  The toccata then runs into large vertical monoliths (mountains) based on the opening melodic line and the notes from the previous section are extracted.  We are soon left with a variant of the Mormon hymn.  The piece then closes in a calmer landscape, gently rolling through material related to the tail of the hymn, which corresponds with the hymn text “all is well.”