By the Sweat of Your Brow

With an energetic and accelerating opening, By the Sweat of Your Brow explores what it means to work for something. The title is in reference to the passage in Genesis where God curses man saying, “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat your food until you return to the ground.” The piece explores that striving to do work and to make something beautiful despite the constant struggle against the natural order of things. The piece was a struggle to create. I felt that I was very often fighting against the material and against the music. The process of writing and the subject matter collided over the course of the composition.

Musically this manifests in the orchestra in two ways. The orchestra rages against the set tempo, starting as half notes, then triplets, then 16ths, faster and faster in a sort of "wind up" until it has lost itself in a trill before another instrument group takes up the gauntlet. After the opening the strings go to work, sawing away in stubborn eighth notes until the main theme rises from the depths of the texture in big quarter note triplets, once more defying the set tempo in a heroic and sweeping tune. The piece visits many places including a calmer and less dense middle section that revisits the "wind up" gesture that compounds on itself building into the final push to the end. Here the triplet has become the strings' unyielding resolve before the rest of the orchestra finally rages against that resolve once more before crashing into the chaotic and beautiful end.

2 flutes
2 oboes
2 clarinets in B-flat
bass Clarinet in B-flat
2 bassoons

4 horns in F
3 trumpets in C
2 trombones
bass trombones

3 percussionists
(tam-tam, bass drum, tubular bells, vibraphone, glockenspiel, whip, crotales, whip, brake drum, marimba, 3 toms)

piano, celesta