Owls of the Evening Pines

Pierrot Ensemble with Percussion

World Premiere: April 17, 2015

Written for EnsembleCONCEPT/21 at Indiana University South Bend for their first annual "Call to Scores" in December 2014.

Program Notes:

This piece was submitted as a call-to-scores for the professional group Ensemble CONCEPT/21 at Indiana University South Bend. After the North American premiere on April 17, 2015, the work was given its European premiere by the Catalan Association of Composers in Oviedo, Spain on May 23, 2015. It is dedicated to my parents in honor of their unceasing support for my musical endeavors.

In the creation of this work, my original goal was to write a piece that employs a juxtaposition between continuous momentum and slow movement in order to paint the image of owls flying through an evergreen forest as the sun sets behind snow-capped mountains. From a musical perspective, I was inspired by a modern orchestral work written by Anders Hillborg, entitled King Tide. For the overall structure of the first section, I wanted the continuous momentum to build anticipation and tension. To do this, I used the piano, the vibraphone, and sparingly the strings and woodwinds playing sixteenth notes, a pulse always present throughout this section but switching off among the instruments, while also having the cello and winds engage in a somewhat jagged dialogue. The owls in the beginning section are portrayed by the wisps of the woodwinds flying above the momentum of the sixteenths below. Throughout the piece, I try presenting the nocturnal activities of the owls in different ways— hunting, flying, nesting, etc. to invite the imagination of the audience into the lives of these mysterious creatures. I root the beginning with a repeating A-flat to paint a hazy yellow-gold backdrop symbolic of the sun setting in the west. As the sun disappears, however, the piece takes a darker mood, and the owls fly all around the forest in random directions hunting their prey, a chaotic scene portrayed in the now dissonant continuity of sixteenth notes in order to build the tension in this section. The Agitato section represents the predatory nature of owls and the darkness of the forest around them—tall, thick pine trees with shadows covering the snow-covered ground. Then, with sudden peace, the owls slow down and look for nests in the pine trees, “cooing” to one another, a more peaceful picture of owls nestling in a forest. This E-major section moves back into a recap of the earlier section full of the busy, sporadic activities of owls in a forest, and the piece ends almost silently. 

J.W.G. II