duration: 14 min .
3333 – 4331 – harp – timp.- 3 perc. – strings
Commissioned by Robert Spano
Premiered by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Robert Spano conducting (March 1, 2012 )
La Luna Azul (The Blue Moon) was conceived in the form of an essay and tone poem. An essay in the sense that I wanted to study a musical idea that has been of recent interest to me, and a tone poem in that I aimed to create a narrative that could depict different scenes from a story that I wished to tell. This work is about love, light, curiosity, innocence, and a glimpse into the unknown. The main material evolved from a piano trio, Luna y Mar, which was inspired by my wife, Janine. We met in the woods of New Hampshire, at the MacDowell Colony where we both had residencies. The moon (luna) and the color blue (azul), which also represents the ocean, have been very influential in her work as a poet, playwright, and screenwriter. I wanted to take these two ideas and see how they could inspire my own music.
The piece is divided loosely into three sections, slow and atmospheric; fast, playful and groove; and a delicate ending that’s based on two juxtaposing ostinati (i.e., an 8-note ostinato superimposed over a 5-note ostinato in 5/8 time) with a gently soaring oboe and cello solo that elevates the piece to a more sensitive space.
The first half is very ethereal and reflects a ruminative journey. The music begins spatially with a drone in Bb hinted throughout. A chord progression is soon introduced, and it later becomes the principal material for the second half of the piece. The first half slowly unfolds and gradually becomes more dissonant, leaving us with a question before jumping to the next section.
The second half of the piece is more rhythmic and playful, lending itself to the essay portion of the piece. I’ve been interested in exploring groove-oriented music, especially rhythms that can potentially be heard in a club. The first section of the second half contains some of the most irregular rhythmic writing I have ever composed. There is a sense of pulse, but the downbeats are never square (e.g., some of the passages move from 7/8 to 8/8 to 7/16). The music and rhythm are consistently unpredictable, but the percussion adds a line that makes the section feel more secure. The end of this section takes us into the next which uses the initial chord progression heard in the first half. This time, however, the progression is transformed into an experience that incorporates elements from the different musical influences that resonate with me (e.g., electronica, jazz fusion, minimalism, Afro-Cuban and Latin music, etc.) as an artist.
The final moment is about transcendence. In many ways, the idea of a groove is still present because of the two ostinati, but this time the groove sits in the background, while the oboe and cello solo play in the foreground. This, for me, represents the intimate connection between the ocean and the moon.
A special thank you to Janine, my dear friends Sam Hyken and Sage Lewis, and my parents, Jane and Steven. This work is dedicated to Robert Spano with profound gratitude and admiration.