Windswept Peaks (May 1989 – June 1990, a consortium commission by the Aeolian Chamber Players) is conceived as a double duo for violin/cello and clarinet/piano. The four parts progress in pairs and are evolved from the same pitch source. Technically, six double modes, each with different ascending and descending orders, transform themselves continually into each other. Four of these are stated simultaneously on all four instruments at any given time. These modes consist of interlocking pitches and reflective intervals. They are, however, defined further by time, register, timbre and loudness, all of which join to shape the progression of each of the parts. The progression of vertical relations is in turn the result of the linear progressions interacting with each other.
These structural principles are based on the philosophy of I Ching, or The Book of Changes. The linear progressions, however, are guided by the concepts of shufa, or the art of calligraphy, according to which pressure, direction, continuity, speed, and viscosity must all be coordinated to propel the flow of ink with desired contour, density and texture. Despite these influences, there is no intention to make the music appear to be “Oriental” or “Chinese.”
The Chinese term for Windswept Peaks, Shan Tao, is an aesthetic expression that is widely used in literature, visual arts, and music — particularly the music for qin, the zither, which greatly influences my musical thoughts. Shan means mountain; tao means “powerful waves.” The cross currents of these waves of sound over mountain peaks can be aesthetically captured by the calligrapher’s brush with as little artificiality as a single limpid stroke. Therefore, again, there is no attempt for Windswept Peaks to “sound” programmatic or descriptive. Instead, as in calligraphy, the goal is to internalize momentous events and emotions into a distilled artistic expression through coordinated flow of the four parts.