for symphonic band
The title of this piece is a line from a poem by Kentucky naturalist, essayist, farmers’ advocate and poet Wendell Berry. The line of verse speaks eloquently of the futility of human aspirations, and I have attempted to capture this in the music.
In the background of much of this piece is a chord progression from Iannis Xenakis’s great work Eonta. This is intended ironically, as “eonta” is the present participle of the verb “to be” (“being” or “existing”) in Greek, and Xenakis’s piece is a tremendous affirmation of life and existence.
The piece begins quietly, with alternating sustained notes and rapid figures in the clarinets. There follow several sections, each one of which builds up to a larger climax than the one before, with the main climax of the piece (following a fast section) giving way to a restatement of the opening clarinet figures, both as they originally appear and in inversion, this time played very loudly in both the lower- and upper-most ranges of the woodwinds. After one more outburst, the piece dies away quietly in clarinets and percussion.