The Edge of Space

for Bassoon and Orchestra

John Downey

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

This work is in a single continuum with no separate movements, although contrasting sections within the whole are readily discernible. The composer perpetuates structural concepts that he worked with in three fairly recent compositions: "Almost Twelve" (one long rhapsody for eleven instruments) 1971; his String Quartet No. 2 (in five continuous movements played without pause) 1976; and his "High Clouds and Soft Rain" (for a mixed choir of 24 flutes ? in one single but varied movement) 1977.

This kind of stream-of-consciousness approach to structure has precipitated new adventures without need for any literary aids in advancing the flow of music over uncharted paths through borderless time fields. The compositional material is continuously varied and periodically contrasted in order to vibrate a newness, about itself while simultaneously stirring streams of memories along the banks of its ever changing musical byways.

While this "Fantasy for Bassoon and Orchestra" embodies the forward thrust of free form, it exercises tight controls over sonority, particularly from the standpoint of balance. The special beauties of the bassoon are so pronounced but yet so bustle, that they characteristically seize one?s immediate attention, and yet typically can be sustained for only brief periods at a time. The subtlety of its timbre is such that its resonances are easily covered or absorbed by other instruments. In this sense, the work has presented the composer with some serious challenges which he has tried to meet, not always head on, but occasionally by circumventing their inevitability and side winding issues down adjacent roads ultimately reverberating towards the same destination ? musical expression. The work uses a large symphony orchestra, but on several occasions, special individual sonorities are solicited are solicited from that huge mass of musical color in order to ever rejuvenate the subtle pastels of the bassoon as this veiled baritone of the orchestra etches its way through the rich oil fields of color with which the orchestra so readily illuminates its musical horizons.

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Additional Information

Composition Date 1978
Duration 00:20:00
Orchestration Solo Bsn.; 2 3 3 2 - 2 2 3 1; Perc. Cel. Hp. El.Gtr. Str.
Premiere September 15, 1978. Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Stephen Basson, bassoon, Kenneth Schermerhorn, conductor; Uihlein Hall, Performing Arts center, Milwaukee, WI.

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