Ornithopter (2016) 9'

For brass sextet.

Commissioned by The Brass Project. Premiered at the Curtis Institute of Music, 12/7/16 . Self-published (Morningside Press, ASCAP).

An “ornithopter,” from the Greek “ornithos” (bird) and “pteron” (wing), is a flying machine designed to fly by flapping its wings. The history of human flight is full of attempts at ornithopters of various shapes and sizes, all characterized by their bird-like flight mechanics. In spite of efforts by Leonardo da Vinci and many other great minds, ornithopters are also almost categorically characterized by failure; these machines simply don’t work. After all, when compared to birds, people are frankly quite heavy. My piece takes the image of a struggling ornithopter as a guiding metaphor: the brass players work together here, flapping furiously, working against the odds to achieve lift in spite of their—pardon my candor—tremendous collective weight. Capricious and vigorous, and always a little unstable, this music imagines a whimsical ride in a giant brass ornithopter. Our flying machine is, like any good ornithopter, clearly prone to failure. Even so, it is still surprisingly potent.

 

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