Polythene Sonata Product (2014)
For Flute (alternate Saxophone(s)), Clarinet(s), Violin, Cello, Piano and Percussion
Commissioned and premiered by the St. Olaf College Chamber Players
Premiere performance, October 2014, St. Olaf College
Further performances by Latitude 49 at New Music Detroit, Constellation in Chicago, Spectrum, NY, et al.
This piece plays with the distinction between minimalism and sonata form. Many works of minimalism unfold over long times scales with imperceptible transitions, but this piece, although it has a minimalist groove, has two conflicting- and maximally contrasting- themes, and even a recapitulation (both hallmarks of sonata form). The transitions between the two themes are abrupt, violent, and sometimes even bewildering. I called this mixing of minimalism and sonata form a “Sonata Product,” which conveys both the sonata-like structure and the influence of pop music (especially in its groove-based rhythms).
The image of a factory generating thousands of copies of a Sonata Product was one that stayed in my mind as I was composing the piece. This industrial feel is at its most apparent in the latter half of the piece. The word “Polythene” refers to a kind of plastic, and the term was immortalized by The Beatles in their song “Polythene Pam,” which is —somewhat ironically— not a real influence on this work.