Into the Morning Rain was written in my blankbook journal on two very sunny September days in Janailhac, near St. Priest-Ligoure in southern France, and completed in Vermont a month later. On its surface it is a simple song for two bass clarinets with accompanying rhythmic pulse.
I don’t assign emotional or picture-painting contexts to my music—that’s way down deep. I let the music speak for me. On the other hand, I do enjoy explaining music’s plumbing, even the twists and turns in this little piece.
The bass clarinets use a technique I’ve retrospectively named “expansion-contraction linear modulation”. I invented this clumsy name to explain a personal method of composing over many years, and it means that although the music isn’t predictable and doesn’t use poetic or dance forms, its changes can be sensed as an organic growth of thematic seeds. Each thematic expansion moves away from a tune’s first occurrence while carrying enough elements to take root in the listening memory. So it’s not exposition-development, it’s evolution. Musical evolution is uncommon and very personal, so listeners unfamiliar with my style are carried along unexpectedly. Even the performers may make discoveries.
The opening and closing notes in every appearance of the bass clarinets rise from and dissolve into the accompaniment, playing the same melody and evolving it with shared unisons and octaves. When they meet, one hands the tune off, holding a pedal tone as the other ‘walks away’.
The accompaniment consists of three palindromes of 93 eighth beats, each repeated 16 times. Using these palindromes, the violin and cello play a very short but stretched-out duo; eliminating repeated notes reveals a simple chorale. The percussion has its own arch, rising until 12 palindromes are played, and then falling as the play order of the six percussion instruments reflects that arch. Despite the apparent regularity, there are no barlines in the music (even though they are included in the individual parts as alignment guides). Phrasing is everything.
The contrast between melodic bass clarinets and rhythmic percussion is one that’s fascinated me since hearing and being astounded by Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman long ago. It can be heard in the small ensemble pieces Gardens: A Love Song; Emerald Canticles, Below; Jetlude; and Melisma, and Softening Cries for orchestra.