Inner Life (2024)

for orchestra

[3333/4331/timp/4perc/hp/pno/strings] Duration: ca. 22'00"


  • I. Take Shape
  • II. Astray
  • III. You Are Here

Commissioned by the Bozeman Symphony Orchestra
Norman Huynh, Music Director

  • Premiere
    March 23, 2024
    The Bozeman Symphony
    Norman Huynh
    Wilson Auditorium
    Bozeman, MT

As I was writing Inner Life, I wasn’t sure what the piece was actually about. I didn’t start with any program or specific inspiration in mind, but instead found my way into the piece through notes, rhythms, and harmonies. But these musical elements carry a kind of meaning of their own, and to discover it I had to go through the curious process of determining what exactly the piece was about while writing it. In a very “meta” sense, I found that the piece itself is about finding your way.

Inner Life unfolds over three movements played without pause. Starting from nothing, the first movement, Take Shape, gradually coalesces into a delicate and syncopated groove flecked with unusual and jittery sounds: the soft taps of wooden bows against strings, swift swells in the brass, and whispering air sounds in the winds. Amidst this evolving texture, a slow-moving procession of chords emerges, propelling the groove towards an increasingly apparent destination. Yet, just as the path seems clear, the music loses its way, taking a detour into stranger realms – a departure mirrored in my own creative process, where instincts prevailed over predetermination. As the music strives to regroup, it eventually falters, disintegrating in spectacular fashion into a powerful lament with echoes of the movement’s opening, ultimately bringing the movement to a close.

The second movement, Astray, confronts the aftermath of the preceding struggle, and a sense of wandering and aimlessness pervades. Spacious and resonant, this movement features ringing bells and a repeated “thud”-like gesture, through which a labyrinthine melody weaves. Eventually the chords from the first movement resurface, suggesting the possibility of a rediscovered purpose achieved through an embrace of the unknown.

Clarity emerges in the third movement, You Are Here, which embarks with fresh resolve, driving forward in a new direction. The music develops through a series of variations on a pointillistic and syncopated motive over a perpetual-motion ostinato. Playing a sort of rhythmic game, it constantly shifts between different rhythmic groupings and orchestrational colors. After building to a climax, ideas from the preceding movements intertwine in the final section, which begins with a more tranquil character. Here, the melody from the second movement returns transformed over the chord progression from the first, all atop the persistent rhythms of the third movement, culminating in a synthesis that propels the movement towards a raucous close, affirming the journey of discovery undertaken within.