Sift (2016)

for large chamber ensemble
Duration: 7'45

Program Note

Sift is a piece I wrote based on Salvator Mundi I, a sacred motet published in 1575 by the English composer Thomas Tallis. Specifically, I borrowed from the opening passage in which five voices stack upon each other in florid imitation over the text "O Savior of the world, save us.” I used this material as point of departure for my own piece. After a brief introductory section, the Tallis quote rises repeatedly like a prayer of desperation, crippled and heavy laden by varying degrees of anguished, microtonal inflections. Near the end of the piece, the Tallis quote appears for the first time in a harmonically “pure” state, only to melt back into a muted landscape which recalls the introduction.

At some point through the writing process I latched on to the word "sift" as a way to conceptualize how I was attempting to parse musical landscapes containing wildly contrasting sonorities. The most obvious contrast is the Renaissance harmonic purity and the microtonal dissonance; but there is also a timbral contrast between rich, pure sonorities and the scratches, knocks, and whispers of various extended techniques. Some sections lean to one extreme while others offer a balanced compromise between two types of sonic worlds, but there is almost always some kind of gradual movement across a spectrum - across a divide that seems unbridgeable. 

You can view the score here