for orchestra (2007-2008), 13′
Performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vanska, cond., Minneapolis, MN, Nov. 2008, and at Indiana University by the IU Concert Orchestra, David Effron, cond., Nov. 2008. Minnesota performance broadcast live on Minnesota Public Radio and webcast on www.mpr.org.
The opening of Automation unfolds like a vast machine coming to life. The first sounds we hear, from the unpitched percussion, are vividly machinelike. Each instrument plays in a repeating cycle, but the cycles are all of different lengths. As other instruments enter the texture, new processes begin, overlapping with those already in progress. I imagined that from the moment this great machine is switched on, it operates of its own accord, each component coming into operation and eventually triggering other components. The orchestral texture is composed of several layers, each layer a component of the machine, if you will. As new layers emerge and come to the fore, other layers recede into the background or else turn off entirely, their function completed. Subsequent sections of the piece explore other types of processes. The energy level waxes and wanes in a series of valleys and plateaus, but the constant whir of the machine continues throughout, until just before the end. Here the orchestra plays all in unison, beginning quietly and slowly, but quickly growing and accelerating to a cataclysmic peak. The vast machine, overburdened and overheated, makes a final attempt to reboot, but its meltdown is inevitable.