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Narratives for Orchestra

Photo taken in Saitama, Japan, 2023

for full orchestra (2024)

3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1 – 2 – hp – str

I. Passages

II. Tides (Moments)

III. Fantasy


Narratives for Orchestra is a work that, while not based on any particular extramusical narrative, is storytelling in character. My hopes in writing this piece were that the music simply invites the audience to entertain their own sort of narrative and imagination while experiencing the music, hence the title.

This piece was heavily informed by my consideration of the work’s audience, for whom I really intended this piece: the people in my life, my friends and family, regardless of their relationship with classical music. As I visualized the different worlds I attempted to musically create, and particularly when I deliberated on various musical choices, my thoughts always came back to imagining the people in my life in the audience, and imagining how this music could communicate with them.


The work is split into three movements. In the first movement, I attempted to depict several different landscapes via different musical ideas, each which briefly established but not yet extensively developed. To me, the music feels like wandering through multiple worlds in a brief amount of time (“passages”), continuously opening doors to enter new landscapes. Two of the melodies introduced in the first movement had particular inspirations: First, the opening melody in the flutes is vaguely reminiscent of a Japanese folk tune I grew up with in its harmonic language and rhythm (although it does not take any particular imitation to one song). Second, the two-bar melody in the glockenspiel is a quote of a very short, simple, almost veiled line in the celeste from the introduction to Maurice Ravel’s comic opera L’heure espagnole (“The Spanish Hour”), a favorite musical moment of mine that I always wished were expanded upon in some way.

The second and third movements, then, are built using these preestablished ideas. The second movement is written to feel like large waves (“tides”) of emotion. The third movement is, as titled, a fantasy on the second theme mentioned above – a contrapuntal setting of Ravel’s theme that later brings home the sort of imaginary worlds introduced in the earlier movements.

Narratives for Orchestra was written for Julius Akira Mauldin and the Mannes Orchestra.

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