Half of Me is Ocean, Half of Me is Sky (2004)
for flute, clarinet, piano, violin, viola, cello, and bass [12:00]
Half of me is Ocean, Half of me is Sky is a musical recreation of the structure and sensations of Wallace Stevens’ poem “Sea Surface Full of Clouds,” a poem that deals with the tension between invention and self-imposed constraint, creating bursts of color and ingenuity within a predetermined form. From a relatively prosaic opening (“In that November off Tehuantepec”––mirrored in the score by the iambic pizzicato exchange of the violin and ‘cello), five variations on a six-stanza form follow, filled with seemingly limitless “fresh transfigurings.” In my piece, a 31-bar template is heard five times with a number of fixed elements (pitches, textures, gestues), signposts that recur at regular intervals with varying degrees of elaboration and disguise. Much of the material is derived from the poem’s central image: a cloudy sky perfectly reflected in a tranquil sea. Similar musical symmetries fill the score, from intervallic relationships and melodic lines which unfold alongside their ‘reflections’ (inverted canons in another register) to the spacious seven-octave ‘mirror’ chord of the coda which fades away as “the sea and heaven rolled as one” to close the piece.