Ethan Wickman

Notes from the Composer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Angles of Repose

Zeitgeist New Music Ensemble

Angles of Repose draws its title from the Wallace Stegner novel of that name about an itinerant mining engineer and his family as they struggle to prosper in the American West. In Stegner’s work, the title refers simultaneously to the angle at which granular materials achieve stability on a slope (picture the angle at which rocks no longer slide off a mountain), and the forces of fortune and consequence that ultimately shape the lives of its protagonists. I have become increasingly interested in the way that physical forces create analogs for social, emotional, interpersonal, and even musical ones.  While my piece does not pictorially narrate the physical phenomenon, it aspires to translate the interplay of these forces into musical ones.

The first movement, “Angle of Displacement”, contrasts moments of syncopation and rhythmic surprise with metric predictability—the net unpredictability being amplified by moments of rhythmic stasis.

“Forlorn Angles” is entirely devoid of the kind of syncopation and rhythmic angularity found in the first movement. It instead labors toward unpredictability as the players are often left to improvise their parts, all the while exploring more obscure instrumental colors.

 Finally, “Angle of Accleration” is a study in speed and changing tempi.  It earns its title from the final push of inertia in the movement, ultimately resulting in a kind of self-destruction.


Performed by the Avalon String Quartet

The expression “namasté” represents the hope that two people with distinct histories and experiences can find peace and reconciliation by recognizing the sacred and humane within the other. Titles from each movement are drawn partly from stories featured in the Vedas, a body of ancient and sacred Sanskrit texts.  The first movement, “Kingdom of Sorrows,” tells the story of a wealthy merchant and a king who are respectively forsaken and left destitute by their families and ministers. In search of enlightenment, they seek the advice of a sage so that they might learn to detach themselves from worldly possessions. 

The second movement depicts the destruction of evil by Vishnu, the Hindu Supreme Being. According to the Vedas, two demons form from the earwax of Vishnu while he sleeps. Awakened by the Devi (the female aspect of the divine) Vishnu destroys the demons.

 The Incarnation of the Divine,” refers in part to the incarnation of the Devi as she protects the faithful from the demons, and in part to the meaning of namasté. A lush exploration of the string quartet, much of the movement is built around a conversation between different combinations of the instruments.

“Time, Matter, Light…Prana” evokes some of the visceral elements of meditation. This movement portrays a narrative of textures and colors, interspersed throughout with a descending syncopated chordal motive. The latter idea represents a diminution of the opening figure in the cello in the first movement—a figure that signifies “prana,” or an ever-present life force.

“Exhilaration; Reconciliation” reveals a kind of ecstasy achieved throughout the spiritual journey of the work.  Musical materials associated with sorrow and joy are reconciled, yielding a new understanding.

Namasté is commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University.

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Comments [85]

tony ortiz from Antwerp, Belgium

prachtig stukje muziek...beautiful piece of music...hermosa pieza de música...groetjes van België, greetings from Belgium, saludos desde Bélgica.

Jul. 27 2010 04:47 PM

@Ken and Robert Denos: I can tell you exactly what I'm talking about, and pardon my arrogance. Let me name you a few NY composers: Cage, Carter, Babbitt, Feldman, Reich, Varese, Zorn, ... All of these are considered--for lack of a better word--"avant-garde" because their music contributed to the evolution of sound, and thus has become part of music history. But music like Ethan's, which is essentially post-Copland with a hint of minimalism (and btw, I think Copland was a great composer--back in the day!) just doesn't belong to this evolution, and I don't even think it wants to be there. It's well done and fun to listen to, but it doesn't express anything of concern for the listener of today. But since everyone is indeed entitled to their own opinion, I'm glad you're enjoying his stuff, as you should... All I'm saying is that Orpheus should look for a different kind of composer for their commissions. Like today's equivalent of the ones mentioned above! :)

Jul. 15 2010 11:45 PM
Adam from Denver, CO

Lovely and vibrant piece with echoes of Copeland rippling into the 21st century, well done!

Jul. 10 2010 12:11 PM
ken from provo, utah

(Excuse me while I finish gagging on Carl's arrogance) ...... Ahem! -- lovely piece Ethan. Keep up the good work.

Jul. 09 2010 11:51 PM

Intellectually stimulating

From Lucas Mather

Jul. 09 2010 09:28 PM
Bethany W. from Iowa

Glad for a chance to hear some of your music. Very impressive!

Jul. 09 2010 08:02 PM
Robert Denos from S. Calif.

@ Carl, what are you talking about? So NY is too good for what you claim as music that is "overly prominent in the rest of this country?" Maybe NY needs to catch up with the rest of the country then... I find this music to be one step up from what you are saying. But that is the wonderful thing about this country; we all get to have, share or keep our own opinions.

Jul. 09 2010 07:37 PM
Carl from Manhattan

This style of music, the so-called Americana, is already overly prominent in the rest of this country, especially the Midwest. Let's keep it out of NYC as much as we can, please!

Jul. 09 2010 04:42 PM

Fantastic. This talented artist has my full support.

Jul. 08 2010 04:12 PM
Douglas Pew from Cincinnati, OH

Great piece Ethan, I really enjoyed it!!

Jul. 08 2010 05:53 AM
Anna Brake

Dr. Wickman conjures up colors and textures that provide a sonic landscape to beautifully illustrate the physical forces of nature with a stimulating energy of yearning--wonderful piece!

Jul. 07 2010 08:42 PM

Ethan has a gift to set literary works to music. He organizes notes and tones to brilliantly capture theme and mood, joy and pathos. Stegner would love it!

Jul. 04 2010 07:15 PM
Alyssa Rae from Eau Claire, Wisconsin

I heard this work both live and now with a professional recording. This piece brings the qualities of minimalism and melodic motion into one cohesive expression. I am always challenged by Dr. Wickman's ability of melding different genres so seamlessly together. What an inspiring teacher, musician, and mentor he is.

Jul. 03 2010 10:13 PM
Janet B. from Wisconsin

Ethan Wickman and the players of the Zeitgeist New Music Ensemble really capture the feelings generated by the angles of repose.

Jul. 02 2010 09:50 AM
Asher from Eau Claire

Nice job! Keep up the good work!

Jun. 30 2010 09:43 PM
Lilly from Eau Claire

This is an inspiring and uplifting composition. What a talent you have, Ethan. Just wonderful! In the class with Horowitz and Cliburn.

Jun. 30 2010 08:31 PM
C Farr from Los Angeles

I'm not going to waste a lot of superfluous words on this. It is simply lovely, engrossing, and interesting. Bring Wickman to Carnegie!

Jun. 30 2010 02:32 PM
Guy Nickerson

Immersing oneself in Wickman's music is reminiscent of leaping into a cool pool on a sweltering summer afternoon.

Jun. 30 2010 10:50 AM
Kerry Wickman from Salt Lake City, Utah

I just love the beginning of this piece with its slow and steady heartbeat of anticipation. It slides into a soft, sad wail from what I believe are the strings of a cello. As other stringed instruments begin to dance in higher notes around the rich, lower tones it sounds to me like deep and distant ocean communications between a whale and a dolphin. I really enjoyed the soothing, yet disconcerting intermingling of high and low pitches, in a seeming quarrel for (or possibly a dance of) transcendence . The swirling uncertainty seems to reach a heightened pitch, pausing momentarily in an apparent flash of discovery, followed by a beautiful, harmoneous merging of sounds and textures. At the end of this piece, the notes seem to quiver, though not as much with anticipation as with a sort of sliding finally into an awaited resolution.
Angles of Repose is lush and grand. I can't wait to hear more from this amazing composer, Dr. Ethan Wickman.

Jun. 30 2010 01:36 AM
Bob from Eau Claire

Ethan Wickman is a star in the making. Angels of Repose quited my spirit at a time when I thought nothing would. Certainly a relaxing piece. Nice work!

Jun. 29 2010 09:45 PM
Shannon from Minneapolis

Ethan Wickman's music is a delight for both the listener and the performer. (I can say this since I'm one of the performers in the Angles of Repose recording.) He artfully brings out the best inherent qualities of the instruments and the performers. It is a rare gift to get the play and hear music that is so gratifying on so many levels: expressively, technically, formally, intellectually, energetically....I look forward to hearing many more great works from Ethan Wickman!

Jun. 29 2010 09:12 PM
Sue B... from Centennial, CO

I loved the feeling of emotion I received when I listened to this piece.... I usually don't like a more modern feel, which I felt this had... However, the depth and peace I received convinced me that this was an amazing composition. I would love to see/hear more of these compositions. Way to go!! It was great!!

Jun. 28 2010 04:47 PM
Shawnda Bishop from UTAH

Namaste takes one on a journey through a landscape of emotion. Ethan Wickman is truly gifted.

Jun. 28 2010 12:02 PM
Alyson Jones from Eau Claire, WI

I put it on to listen to as a secondary activity while working- work soon became the secondary activity. Thought-provoking and beautiful.

Jun. 28 2010 11:14 AM
Barbara Arnold from The Heartland

Carnegie Hall is calling Ethan Wickman home to share his music with the world. Go for it Ethan!

Jun. 27 2010 11:05 PM
Sandra Krieger from Denver

Magnificent!! Genius quality in effects and delivery. Give me more-----the world needs to hear this perfectionist composer.

Jun. 27 2010 10:41 PM
madeline Quayle from Salt Lake City

Namaste. I know the exercise of searching for quiet and balance in every day life and I like how Namaste reflects this exercise and takes you through that search to a point where you take a deep breath and say thank you. Beautiful music.

Jun. 27 2010 05:22 PM
Matt Rightmire from Eau Claire

As a patron of music, Dr. Wickman's music instantly commands my attention, then forces me to *feel* what I am hearing in the color and excitement of each instrument's voice. As a performer, Dr. Wickman's music shows amazing brilliance in it's ability to illustrate, reinforce, and embolden something that may be happening in concurrence with the music (I vividly imagine this style of music highlighting beautiful magic, dance, or other dynamic theatre). As an educator, I hear the components of musical theory being used in fresh and admirably fascinating combinations. Dr. Wickman's mastery of composition proves that once you have learned the rules of how to do something, you can throw most of the rules out! Incredible work by the most credible of artists. We are honored to have him amongst our ranks and would be very grateful to see this work explode in Carnegie Hall...where it belongs.

Jun. 27 2010 05:17 PM
Jerry Young from Eau Claire, Wisconsin

These are special works which influenced my wife and I to commission another highly successful work from Ethan which was premiered in Tucson in May. His creativity and ability to "connect" to a broad range of listeners and performing musicians is stunning.

Jun. 27 2010 11:10 AM
Christa from Eau Claire

Beautiful depth to Ethan's compositions!

Jun. 26 2010 08:27 PM
Bonnie Krahn

Wonderful! What amazing talent!

Jun. 26 2010 11:25 AM
Kim S. from Salt Lake City, Utah

What a treat! Very moving.

Jun. 25 2010 11:53 PM
John Urice from Wisconsin

I am familiar with some of his compositions and find him to be a creative, exciting composer whose breadth welcomes many types of listeners to his music.

Jun. 25 2010 03:21 PM
Jennifer Dobberfuhl Quinlan from Barron, WI

Masterfully done. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us, Dr. Wickman.

Jun. 25 2010 02:55 PM
Ann from Eau Claire, WI

Beautiful! I heard Namaste live and it was a truly wonderful experience.

Jun. 25 2010 02:44 PM
Brooke from Osseo, WI

Listening to the music, I felt the need to be outside. I felt the sunshine, a light breeze and harmony. Very inspiring. Thank you for the experience.

Jun. 25 2010 02:27 PM
Heidi Clark from Eau Claire, WI,

Ethan, you are awesome! Congratulations!

Jun. 25 2010 01:01 PM
Linda Fitzgerald from Eau Claire WI

Mesmerizing composition.........what a fabulous local talent!

Jun. 25 2010 11:37 AM
Sarah Pederson from West St. Paul, MN

Ethan's depth of Spirit shines through his music. Thank you for sharing this inner beauty with the world.

Jun. 25 2010 11:37 AM
DLP from Wisconsin

A very well conceived work that deserves a wider hearing.

Jun. 25 2010 11:17 AM
Joyce Sobotta from Eau Claire

I enjoyed both pieces, great listening - one for merriment and one for reflecting. Thank you

Jun. 25 2010 11:14 AM
Sally Velleux


Jun. 25 2010 10:35 AM
Mimi French from Menomonie

One of the best local talents!

Jun. 25 2010 10:25 AM
Sharon Bestul

Hauntingly beautiful. I know nothing about music but as an avid reader this piece begs to be put with a story.

Jun. 25 2010 10:05 AM
Jodi from Eau Claire

Excellent! I would love to see this performed at Carnegie Hall.

Jun. 25 2010 09:48 AM
Jody Hagedorn from Hometown Eau Claire

Both very worthy of praise-especially love Namaste' and the 'created' journey within. Congratulations Ethan...Here's to YOUR journey to Carnegie Hall!

Jun. 25 2010 09:39 AM
Chelsea from Wisconsin

Beautiful music. I really enjoyed both of these pieces.

Jun. 25 2010 09:21 AM
Beth Ernst from Eau Claire

I enjoyed this piece very much. It has such a unique sound.

Jun. 25 2010 09:17 AM
Yotam H from Brooklyn

technically perfect; he makes instruments sound like rock stars; and his music happens to also be fantastic.

Jun. 25 2010 08:16 AM
Harmony Packer

Wow! I liked Namaste' best, but they are both evidence of an amazing talent.

Jun. 25 2010 01:00 AM
Kelly Childs from Eau Claire, WI

Simply amazing!

Jun. 24 2010 11:15 PM
Trent Nelson from SLC

Wow. That's about all I can say. Like nothing I've ever heard before.

Jun. 24 2010 10:32 PM
Corita Schilling from Altoona, WI

These compositions are compelling in their ability to engage the listener in reflection. It was delightful to visualize the broad range of human movement each piece evokes. It was equally moving to 'see/feel' the variety of colors, shapes and patterns that came to mind throughout. What a wonderful blend the arts in touching the mind and heart of the listener. Inspired work, Dr. Wickman! Thank you.

Jun. 24 2010 07:16 PM
Alex from Eau Claire, WI

Dr. Wickman's music is some of the most original and intriguing new music I've heard. He manages to write music that is complex and unusual, yet still very pleasing to the ear. "Angles" is delightfully energetic and refreshingly original in its instrumentation. "Namasté," in contrast, is deeper and more soulful, filled with beautiful color-chords and unique textures. High marks to both of these works.

Jun. 24 2010 05:47 PM
Janet Van Blerkom from Amherst, MA

Our local orchestra, the Pioneer Valley Symphony, participated in the NYC based Earshot project and played a piece by Ethan Wickman, Les Jeunes et les Immortels. We were very impressed with the energy and beauty of his composition. He is a composer worthy of any and all support.

Jun. 24 2010 05:10 PM
TH from eau claire

Wonderful music.

Jun. 24 2010 04:54 PM
Ryan from Eau Claire

A thoughtful composer, Ethan's music remains ever mindful of its place within the varied histories of stylistic tradition. He yields work of informed craft, distinctive voice, and relevance. My musicianship benefits every day for our interaction and my recommendation of Ethan is unqualified.

Jun. 24 2010 04:12 PM
Nathaniel Nelson

"Angles of Repose" is amazing!

Jun. 24 2010 03:00 PM
Greg from Eau Claire

Dr. Wickman's music is evocative and innovative, enjoyable by music scholars and casual listeners alike. The textural changes in Angles of Repose accompanied by an organic and natural development of ideas helps to pull the piece together nicely and makes it very appealing.

Jun. 24 2010 02:40 PM
Dan from New York

wonderful textures in both of those pieces, very evocative, really great bass clarinet writing on angles.

Jun. 24 2010 01:52 PM
Gary Schwartzhoff

I am pleased that Dr. Ethan Wickman is being considered as a composer for a commissioned work with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. I would like to register my support for this outstanding young composer.

Jun. 24 2010 12:07 PM
Aveen from Eau Claire, WI

"Angles of Repose" was amazing and surprising- a wonderful response/interpretation of Stegner's novel! Way to go.

Jun. 24 2010 08:14 AM
Ella Olsen

I loved both pieces! They invoke such different emotions. My kids loved Angles - was it a Marimba with the beautiful bell like tones? It is clear that Ethan is passionate about his work and that passion is inspiring to any audience!

Jun. 23 2010 10:41 PM
Christiane Stagg from Madison, WI

Fascinating and inspiring music!

Jun. 23 2010 10:37 PM
Yael Grauer from Eau Claire, WI

Beautiful! I really enjoyed listening to this.

Jun. 23 2010 09:48 PM
Paula J from NC

Terrific. Music flows and inspires. Love "Angles of Repose." Thanks for sharing.

Jun. 23 2010 08:17 PM

excellent! sounds like imagination!

Jun. 23 2010 07:40 PM
Camilla from Eau Claire WI

it's awesome and creative. It sounds like very hard work

Jun. 23 2010 06:41 PM
Melissa Swensen from Ramstein, Germany

Wonderful, beautiful music. "Angles of Repose" is creative and evocative. It energizes and inspires. At once both frantic and free, it evokes memory and emotion as it rolls from one movement to the next. The soundtrack to life.
The voices in "Namaste" are evident from the beginning. The sounds of different souls coming together with intensity and conviction and then resolving into a beautiful serenity. The emotion in this piece is palpable.
Congratulations to Ethan. He is to be commended for his immense talent and his ability to speak through music. I can't wait to hear more of his work.

Jun. 23 2010 05:02 PM
Nick from Eau Claire

Simply put, this is incredible music. Freed from the constraints of particular "isms" that dominated much of the 20th century (and attendant scorn of those that didn't tow the line), Wickman draws from every source of inspiration and style he can, and never apologizes for writing music that is accessible to the serious musician and lay listener alike. His music will command repeat performances and is destined to prevail over the "premiere to dusty shelf" track that so much contemporary music has taken. Keep this composer on your radar...

Jun. 23 2010 04:51 PM
Judy Behrens

Incredible and inspirational. Thank you thank you!

Jun. 23 2010 04:06 PM
Jennifer from Salt Lake City

Ethan Wickman captures the life stages of Wallace Stegner's "Angle of Repose" so beautifully and accurately. His ability to capture and share through his composition the emotions we all experience as we go through the ups and downs of life is exquisite.
Namaste felt so peaceful at times. Thank you for sharing, your music is beautiful.

Jun. 23 2010 02:19 PM
Maddie Scott from Utah

I love Angles of Repose. It ignites my interest not only in finishing Wallace Stegner's book, but also in the West and the geology here and in new and exciting music. I'm also interested in the musicians, instruments and all the talent that goes in to something like this!

Jun. 23 2010 01:14 PM
Edie Zambrano

I loved Angles because it reminded me of my life and how sometimes I feel that I am in control and everything is in order and other times I feel that I am subject to the buffetings of external elements and I have to handle and react to these elements to the best of my ability. I liked the exchange of these two ideas portrayed in this delightful yet agitated music. Very provocative!!! I want to see this young talent at Carnegie Hall!!!!!!!!!

Jun. 23 2010 11:17 AM
Edie Zambrano

By the way, I was referring to Namaste. Now I will indulge in Angle of Repose. Thanks.

Jun. 23 2010 11:06 AM
Edie Zambrano

I like the way Ethan's music takes me on a journey of introspection and reflection. I love the conversations that he has created between the stringed instruments--there is a longing yet a deep feeling of restitution in the end. Wonderful piece!!!

Jun. 23 2010 11:01 AM
Robert Denos from Fair Oaks Ranch, CA

Ethan Wickman's music is incredible! Namaste takes you on an inward journey, allowing you to travel through every emotion possible and brings you to that state of just being in the now, fully present and aware of who you are . A true work of genius on both the physical and the spiritual levels.

Jun. 23 2010 09:23 AM

Angles was my favorite because of the complex movements. I would like to see what the Disney artists would do with it in a "Fantasia" like production.

Jun. 23 2010 09:05 AM
ashley from slc, utah

I could listen to these two pieces over and over again and still hear something that I had missed before. Beautiful music. Thanks for sharing.

Jun. 23 2010 01:27 AM
kacie Ortiz from Utah

Love this!!! Remarkable! Thank you thank you!

Jun. 23 2010 12:44 AM

Thoughtful. Moving. Creative and interesting. Tells a story worth listening to. Thank you!

Jun. 22 2010 11:57 PM
Laura Nelson from Salt Lake City, Utah

Angles of Repose is a musical treat! So fresh and unique. And with Namaste Ethan succeeds in putting a delightful sound to yin/yang qualities of our our physical and spiritual world. I would definitely travel to Carnegie Hall to hear more of Ethan Wickman's compositions. An extremely talented composer worthy of the finest accolades!

Jun. 22 2010 11:10 PM
Madeline Quayle from Salt Lake City

I like this. I can feel the energy that goes into finding that angle of repose.

Jun. 22 2010 09:43 PM

Ethan Wickman does an excellent job of maximizing the talents of each of the players of the Zeitgeist New Music Ensemble in his work "Angles of Repose." I have heard Zeitgeist perform this work live and it keeps my interest and delights me at the levels of both the intellect and the soul. In addition, it passed the kid test. By the end of listening to the piece, our two kids were bopping around and had huge smiles (with the nuance of the expression of "whoa") on their faces by the end of the piece. Alex Shapiro was in attendance for the premier and she is the one who highly encouraged the ensemble to record this piece. Thanks, Alex, for putting in a good word!

Jun. 22 2010 09:36 PM
Carolyn M.

Ethan Wickman's music is fascinating.

Jun. 22 2010 09:10 PM

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