Adaptive Reuse: a chamber symphony for 13 musicians

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Adaptive Reuse is a chamber symphony of approximately 14 minutes 30 seconds in four continuous movements and is scored for 13 musicians: 1 flute (doubling piccolo); 1 oboe (doubling English horn); 1 B-flat clarinet (doubling bass clarinet); 1 horn in F; 1 trumpet in C; 1 percussionist (quad toms and vibraphone); 3 violins; 2 violas; 1 cello; and 1 double bass. The piece explores the term “adaptive reuse:” the repurposing of old buildings to meet a community’s changing needs while preserving sites of historic value. Whether in the form of rustic tables made from reclaimed barn timbers or mixed-use developments that breathe new life into derelict industrial buildings, the notion of adaptive reuse combines our society’s increased awareness of the earth’s limited resources with our demand for authenticity. This concept is ideally suited to musical materials as well: since the Middle Ages, Western composers have reused their own music and the compositions of others or have simply found inspiration in older, more “learned,” forms throughout every stylistic period.

The musical materials of Adaptive Reuse are drawn from my 2007 solo bass clarinet work Requiem for Dead Wood; I develop the original composition’s compelling motives through non-tonal and rhythmically asymmetrical explorations. The first movement, “Reclaimed Wood,” acknowledges the source material (Dead Wood) and the aforementioned repurposing of old construction materials into furniture or architectural details. The second, “Persons of Record,” divides the ensemble into two competing choirs, reflecting the attempts by impassioned speakers to sway community members at public hearings. “Request for Proposal,” refers to the solicitation of bids from developers; in this movement, I rework a second-movement countermelody through several guises (“proposals”) using a number of compositional schemes. As the subtitle “Old and New” suggests, the final movement conveys the dual outcomes of adaptive reuse: first, the ensemble coalesces into the only true climax of the piece for one shimmering moment—its new purpose—and second, the opening material returns, indicative of the preservation inherent to this type of development.