Program Note for Mimetic Variations (wind octet, 1998)


This work was commissioned in 1998 by the Detroit Chamber Winds, whose core wind ensemble often performs the more traditional Harmoniemusik of the 18th century.  In order to bridge the gap between their more utilitarian, 18th century repertoire and the 20th century, I decided to base my work on material which has similar characteristics to their repertoire: a clear melodic and rhythmic component, directness, elegant simplicity, an occasional dramatic effect.  This piece also reflects my ongoing interest in cyclic relationships.  Each variation not only treats the original theme group, but also presents a variety of alterations, which are then imitated in ensuing sections.  These transforming variations move us from a driving, playful introduction into contrasting material that dissolves the ensemble down to a single line shared between players.  A chorale brings all the forces of the ensemble together that leads to a heroic tutti.  Finally, a section of irregular and shifting meters moves the ensemble back to the opening material.  Each variation relies on the sharing of gestures between pairs of players to disassemble and then reassemble the first section.  The resulting patterns are echoes of material cut from the opening.