INEVITABLE WAVE for chamber orchestra and fixed media audio


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fl/dbl pic, ob, cl/bscl, Bari sax/dbl sop. sax, bsn; horn, tpt C, bstbn, tba, timp, perc(3), piano, strings

Instrumentation : 

chamber orchestra, fixed media

Duration (min): 


The Inevitable Wave(C) is the third work in a series, as it suffix suggests. It began life as an unaccompanied fixed media piece, which consisted of the sound of a single ocean wave breaking on a shore--about ten seconds long--that was ultimately stretched to be almost ten minutes long. [The wave was from a recording by Karen McCoy, made on the French Mediterranean coast in 2000.] The idea is of something that emerges from silence and grows ever louder, from a point where it is at first difficult to determine if there's even anything there or not, to a roaring, almost unbearable crescendo. That piece suggested that it should be further extended by the addition of live instruments.

In this version for chamber orchestra, two movements have been added before the start of the electroacoustic part. The first, “Rolling Waters/Uneasy Calm” is a dark, roiling texture of low-register sounds. The second “Beacon/Warning” is a complete contrast, made of sharply attacked, bright, metallic chords, that grow ever richer harmonically upon repetition. The third is the interaction between the ensemble and the electroacoustic “wave”, the acoustic parts having been derived from spectral analysis of the electronic "wave" material.

This piece has two strong and immediate extra-musical analogues. The first was the devastation of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake that occurred only a few months after I had completed the electroacoustic part, and a few before I started this piece. The second is the broader issue of climate change, the sense of something ominous on the horizon, still soft but growing more insistent, leading toward a greater catastrophe than anyone is willing to imagine. Written in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, this feels particularly appropriate. [And for the record, this is not a suddenly recent concern. In 1991 I wrote a piece for orchestra titled “Death” (Capstone 8779), that depicts an asphyxiating earth]. Having said this, I also hope that the piece contains an inherent power that justifies its musical form and content, in their own right.   --Robert Carl

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