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Of Air Sweet and Water Deep

Of Air Sweet and Water Deep is written in honor of Dr. Peter Raven for his years of service to the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.  I drew inspiration for this piece from the Garden’s Climatron.  The moment I walked into it, I was inundated with the warm, heady air, soft sunbeams, and all-encompassing green.  It was a world that was filled with bizarre plants in foreign shapes, both small and unimaginably huge, where the subtle strides proudly along side the flamboyant.  Terrestrial plants cling to rocks that surround murky pools with water so black that you might never find the bottom.  I found the general atmosphere intoxicating and lush, and I instantly knew this would be the garden upon which I would base my piece.
The primary melody is built on a mosaic of small, independent motives that form a larger structure, just as the garden comprises many individual plants.  It contains two pentatonic scales spaced one-half step apart, presenting something familiar and recognizable that is at the same time fresh and strange.  The pentatonic scale is a feature of the music in many parts of Africa, which adds to the world-music feel of the piece.  To symbolize the mixing of tropical plants from different continents in the Climatron, I used percussion instruments that have differing origins: South American bongos and congas, and the African balafon.  As the piece progresses, the motives that make up the primary melody are separated and brought back together to develop in various ways.  In the middle is a slow section, in which the long, lyrical melody and sparse instrumentation contrasts the more active and spontaneous section that precedes it.  Gradually, this slow section gains energy while reintroducing the opening motives.  These motives overtake the slow melody, building in intensity until the very end.

Duration: 7 min.
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