Stillas
For brass quintet and percussion


Stillas is the first part of a much larger two-part composition based on an obscure Norwegian text of the same name. This first piece, a short introductory brass quintet with percussion written for the Meridian Arts Ensemble, presents a highly distilled harmonic landscape. I have recently been experimenting with the use of quarter-tones in an effort to arrive at a system of harmonic motion capable of conveying an audible and comprehensible sense of development. Stillas encapsulates the system, presenting the harmonic schema in its entirety in miniature form – focused, forward driving, inescapable. The terrain of this landscape passes by more quickly as the piece progresses, but nonetheless remains a frozen and unalterable structure.

Activity in the piece can be broken into two distinct layers. The first is a chord progression whose rhythms and durations, as well as pitches, are determined by the harmonic system. The second, highly formalized and ritualistic, consists of an accompanimental percussion part and a series of repeating intervals (played by brass) that expand throughout most of the piece. These intervals, part of the same harmonic schema, are, for the majority of the piece, internal constituents of the chords. At a certain point they become the outermost voices, having expanded past the progression’s registral boundaries. They then begin to shrink again, crushing the captured chords as they progress.