"For me, there are only a few pieces of orchestral music that generate a feeling of continuous unfolding--Pacobel's Canon in D, Maurice Ravel's Bolero, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, J.S. Bach's fugues and Where Sheep May Safely Graze, to name a few. When one discovers them, these "unfolding" pieces are often quite different from each other musically.
But they all seem to possess a certain inevitability as they are played, as if nothing could stop them, and no other tonal sequence could possibly occur. I think of this as musical unfolding because, like an unfolding flower, more and more of the essence of the subject is revealed. The same unfolding quality is found in classical tragedy, where the "seeds" of destruction are seen early on within the protagonist.
So musically, are later developments sometimes found in the embryonic earlier parts. This is why the developmental sequence seems inevitable, why it seems it must occur. In 1942, in Little Gidding, T.S. Eliot wrote,
"And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started,
And know the place for the first time."
Unfolding is found in tragic opera, of course. You can hear the inevitability of Tosca's demise in the opening chords of Puccini's opera, three acts before her suicidal leap. It is hard to write a derivative piece about a gorgeous work by Puccini without quoting it like mad, but in Essence of Tosca I tried to get past the musical surface of the opera, to the unfolding essence.
The famous duet from Massenet's Pearl Fishers has the same unfolding quality, although I can't really say why. I use part of the chord structure from this duet in my own Unfolding.
I am indebted to Ravi Shankar and Sir Yahudi Menouin for an exquisite collaborative album they made of morning and evening ragas. My Intervals track explores a similar antiphonal dialogue between strings and voices, with a drone providing the inexorable quality of unfolding.
I have also found this quality of unfolding in some popular composers. LeGrand is a tone poem dedicated to Michel Le Grand, who primarily is known for his film scores, e.g. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Thomas Crown Affair (The Windmills of Your Mind), Orca (We are One). (Right now there is a nice interview with him at the ASCAP website.) I fell completely in love with the teen-aged Katerine Deneuve, as she appeared in Umbrellas, her debut film, singing LeGrand's tragically beautiful music in French. "If it takes forever, I will wait for you..."
Thinking about Deneuve while writing LeGrand reminded me of an equally tragic affair I later had with a girl who physically could have been Deneuve's twin sister. The track called "Secret Jeannie" is an evolved mixture of an old Stephen Foster song from the 1860's, Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair, a Broadway tune, Camelot, (from the 1960's show of the same name), a 50's pop ballad, (Once I had a) Secret Love, and the title song from the (John Wayne)original airplane disaster film, The High and Mighty. The choice of songs makes sense, but only Jeannie, wherever she is, will understand the reference to an airplane disaster.
For me, being in the tropics seems to generate a relentless feeling similar to the feeling of unfolding, although there most of the unfolding is probably vegetable. Maybe it's the heat, maybe it's the humidity, the feeling is there. I try to capture it in my A Florida Key, a remnant of a visit to Key West during the mating rituals of Spring Break. (Sorry, I just couldn't resist the final quote from Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps.)
My Adagio in D owes as much to Sinatra as to Barber or Pacobel.
Finally, the last track, Sweet Sorrow, alludes to Romeo and Juliet, another tragedy with inevitable unfolding. Juliette says, with prescience, "Parting is such sweet sorrow."
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3. Sheep May Safely
5. Secret Jeannie
6. Essence of Tosca
7. A Florida Key
8. Adagio in D
9. Sweet Sorrow