“The piece [seraphic ride] tells an exciting story, ever intensifying in color, thematic ideas, texture and tempo.”
— The Washington Post (Jun 24, 2002)
The title of this work is a reference to its dedicatee, my late teacher Jacob Druckman. In 1992 Druckman wrote an orchestral work called Seraphic Games. I clearly remember his discussing with me how he grappled with a title for this work, since he was thinking of angels playing games with sound. In 1996, when I heard of his illness I made a visit to New Haven, hoping to see him for one last time; unfortunately, when I arrived I learned he had died the previous evening, and I never had an opportunity to tell him of my gratitude for the terrific influence he had upon me both as a composer and a person. Three years later I was awarded the NSO/Alabama Composers Commission, and at that time I thought of the good and rewarding relationship Jacob had had with the NSO’s music director, Leonard Slatkin, during the period when Mr. Slatkin was music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. I thought further of the importance of relationships between composers and the musicians who perform their music, and the idea of a work in homage to Jacob Druckman began to take hold. One thought was that my title should allude to one of his compositions. Since he had passed away all too young, I developed an image of angels accompanying him to his final rest: a sort of journey with angels, hence the title Seraphic Ride, representing that final journey with an allusion to Druckman’s own Seraphic Games.
The piece is in a single movement comprising three large sections, the final one being a modified restatement of the first. I approached the instrumentation in terms of a “mini-orchestra” made up of three trios: a woodwind trio for flute, oboe and clarinet; a “percussion trio” of piano, harp and percussion; and a string trio of violin, viola and cello. This definitely affected the way I approached the sonic resources of the piece, since I had this “mini-orchestra” image in mind fairly consistently.
The work was composed over a period of immense transition for me. I was awarded the commission while working at the University of Alabama; the commission details were finalized only shortly before I took up my next position in Hobart, Australia, and a good deal of the work on the piece was completed while I was a fellow of the Czech-American Summer Music Institute in Prague, Czech Republic.