(Symphony No. 2 in two movements)
This symphony in two movements takes its title from a phrase in Wallace Stevens’ poem Madame la Fleurie: “The black fugatos are strumming the blacknesses of black…” I chose the title when I was well into composing the first movement and noticed that I was using a great deal of imitative counterpoint, and that the character of the piece seemed to be on the dark side. It seemed therefore quite appropriate. Both movements contain many imitative, or fugato, passages, in which one instrument states a theme, which is imitated, sometimes with alterations, by one or more other instruments. (A round is a simple version of this kind of technique.)
The first movement is a sort of “movement within a movement,” in which outer sections in a slow tempo contrast with a middle section that is fast and sometime furious. The opening and final passages in the movement are dominated by simultaneous fugatos involving the double basses, alto and bass flutes, and bass and contrabass clarinets, emphasizing the dark character of the poetic phrase. The second movement is fast for most of the way, and of a violent, often brutal, character. At the climax of the movement, the strings take over for a slow, but very intense, coda.