Pieces take on lives of their own, like this one I’m about to hear a lot of in the coming two weeks with the Vermont Symphony and Curtis On Tour: called Seasons Lost. It began life as just Seasons, a double violin concerto for the same forces as the Bach. The Baroque reference took me further, and I decided to write a kind of concerto grosso piece, with the string orchestra as equal partner to the two solo violins, rather than as the “accompaniment.” To try to invent a new take on the Baroque musical language, I drew from other “Seasons” pieces that I knew (and maybe even some that I didn’t…). I wrote the piece for Jaime Laredo and Jennifer Koh, and I’m hearing it now in Vermont and next week at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, the Miller Theatre in New York, and at the Kennedy Center in D.C.
Seasons Lost was premiered as "Seasons" last May by the Delaware Symphony with the wonderful conductor David Amado, and it has evolved as a piece steadily since the premiere. This happens quite a bit—the act of revision, and I’ve been asked about it quite a bit in the past few weeks. For me, the clay is always wet, and I find myself going back to revise pieces, sometimes with a scalpel, and occasionally with a chainsaw. This isn’t true for all composers. I interviewed Steve Stucky last week at Curtis and he said that–although he sometimes sees things that could be edited after the piece is finished–it would be like pulling at a loose strand of thread on the sweater such that the whole thing came apart (though I don’t know how much he edits during the creative process). This issue is about writing and the ultimately the difference between writers: some edit constantly, and some let it be.
So I set to revising Seasons over the months between the Delaware premiere and this upcoming series of concerts with Vermont and Curtis. The weather in my world from the summer to winter was nothing short of catastrophic, and it compelled me in revising–away from the tidy idea of a “Four Seasons” kind of piece into something that addressed the poignant images I had seen of people who lost their homes and livelihood overnight in the storms and hurricanes and blizzards. What I ended up changing wasn’t a few technical items and tempi as I usually would, but the actual message of the work. This piece is now relevant to me personally as someone who has spent his life where the changing seasons could be counted on as nature’s ritual. This consistency that the old composers wrote about in their "Seasons" is no longer a given, and it’s madness to me that there’s any debate about it. I have responded to that with this piece.