Instrumentation: flute (doubling piccolo, alto flute and medium finger cymbals), B-flat clarinet (doubling E-flat clarinet, B-flat bass clarinet and large finger cymbals), violin (doubling small finger cymbals), violoncello, percussion (vibraphone, orchestra bells, crotales [high set and low set]), piano.
For The California EAR Unit
Premiere: The California EAR Unit, Arcosanti, Mayer, AZ, August 14, 2004.
I came up with the title The Thin Ice of Your Fragile Mind before I began writing the piece. I soon realized that the work would be far more abstract than the title itself implies. I often come up with titles before I begin writing, but this one could have easily been added after I finished. In some ways, it describes the nature of the piece: there are sections that sound icy, cold and fragile, and even moments that sound like plunging into the dark depths of a black lake.
I also knew this work would be premiered at Arcosanti, a prototype "arcology" (a word meaning architecture coherent with ecology) in the Arizona desert designed by architect Paolo Soleri. Since I could not stop thinking about the wonderful windbells made there, I chose percussive sounds that are entirely metallic: a vibraphone, crotales, orchestra bells and finger cymbals. This works perfectly for two reasons: metal percussion instruments can sound icy and cold, and the percussionist in EAR Unit, the group premiering the work, was limited to bringing instruments that would not be adversely affected by the intense summer heat. While composing the piece, the irony never escaped me that a work inspired by ice and cold would be premiered in a sweltering desert.
– Robert Paterson