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Project 440

Sean Shepherd

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Octet

Performed by the Scharoun Ensemble of Berlin; Conducted by Sean Shepherd.

I chose these excerpts from my Octet (completed in 2008) and my sextet Lumens (completed in 2006) in an attempt at broad contrast: fast vs. slow, soft vs. loud, lyrical vs. punctuated.  But when I listened to what I had selected, I was more struck by the similarities in the pieces than by the differences. Both are final sections of longer pieces for medium-sized chamber forces, both are for standard, time-tested ensembles, and both are, in the end, full of contrast in and of themselves. Each has plenty of soft, fast, and lyrical, and each has plenty more.

Lumens

Performed by the Cornell Chamber Players; conducted by Sean Shepherd.

Where these excerpts truly differ is in character. The Octet selection comprises a whole movement, the fourth, entitled «The Perplexed Machine,» taken (as the other titles are) from the Wallace Stevens poem Sea surface full of clouds. Anyone might take some kind of dark, sarcastic pleasure in observing our nimble yet confused mechanical friend bumbling along—there certainly was pleasure on my part in guiding the bumbling. In Lumens, it’s quite the opposite. Arriving after a busy, joyous piece that teems with energy for long stretches, the excerpt begins just as apogee melts away, revealing a hushed and innocent final prayer, marked in the score: Benediction (blessing, in the most universal sense).