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Reflecting Light (2006)

for brass quintet
duration 9 min.
Commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival & School and American Brass Quintet
Premiered by the American Brass Quintet (July 29, 2006)


In November of 2006, my former teacher’s father passed away over Thanksgiving. It was a very difficult time for him, and even though I didn’t know his father, I was affected by the pain and sadness that he was going through. I wasn’t able to articulate my thoughts to him in great detail, but I wanted to do something for him to let him know that I was really sorry for the loss of his father. In its essence, Reflecting Light is a conversation that I imagined having with my teacher, Robert Beaser.

The piece is a series of reflective moments: the first section, the opening chorale, represents the loss of life. A surge of energy emerges from the chorale and signifies the pain and frustration that one must go through when accepting another’s death. Just as it is necessary to move on after losing a loved one, the second section pays homage to the lost life and honors him with a meditative moment.

In this section, the trumpets play a long overlapping descending scale, while the trombones play open fifths. From this moment, a somber ostinato evolves from the horn and two trumpets, while the tenor trombone plays a short hymn-like melody. The music momentarily returns to the meditative fifths in the trombones and falling scales in the trumpets, before moving on to the last section, which is a celebration of life.

In this final section, an ostinato emerges from the horn, and the music gradually becomes more uplifting, until the end, where a series of fanfare-esque gestures come to light. I will never forget my time with Bob, and this work is dedicated to him as a gesture of my everlasting gratitude.