Totems (2018) for flute and piano (for Anne Hoffman)


Totems, performed by Margaret Lancaster and Rory Cowal, UCSC, April 15, 2018.

There’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for a few years now that I like to conceive of as Mnemonic Totems. Basically, they are discreet musical events that stick out to the listener and outline how time is flowing throughout a piece of music and/or how the overall duration of a piece is broken up into smaller chunks. In this piece, the Piano marks these Totems: two - six note chords which, through their register, voicing, and pitch selection aim to succeed from one to the next with a certain palate-cleansing freshness—successive chords, for instance, are unlikely to share pitches. Yet, Totems return throughout the piece, confusing our sense of directionality. Winding around and through these Totems, the Flute navigates this space like a stream swirling about large stones, coming in and out of alignment, both temporal and harmonic.