Fearless Canyon| Wind Band | 7'
about fearless canyon
A few years ago, I read a strategy for overcoming anxiety that I still think about often. In this scenario, you imagine your specific worries as a concrete object with mass and size. Next, you place those worries in the context of the Grand Canyon and see how they suddenly appear small in the context of a landscape so overwhelmingly immense.
When I use this anxiety trick in my own life, though, I always picture a different real-life space. I imagine the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos, New Mexico, with its sweeping desert views, a path winding alongside the ravine, a bridge that spans the gorge, and the view straight down from that bridge. Planes soar overhead; birds swoop carelessly into the canyon. In that place, even before I knew of this anxiety trick, it was easy to put worries into perspective.
In Fearless Canyon, players and audience members experience how it feels to mitigate anxiety with a series of ever-shifting perspectives. Throughout the piece, we shift from witnessing a bird's-eye view of the canyon to becoming engulfed in anxiety to placing that anxiety into the canyon itself.
Here, anxiety is represented by a perpetually-swirling melody in 6/8 time. This melody spins around us, engulfing us in its wake. But as a canyon appears before us, we're able to put that anxiety into context. In the music, this spinning motive becomes a small part of the texture, barely present at all, and eventually disappears altogether.
Fearless Canyon was commissioned by and is dedicated to the following ensembles, with gratitude:
Atwater High School (Michael Flores)
Johansen High School (Brad Hart)
Minnesota Junior Winds (Charles Weise)
Mona Shores High School (Jason Boyden)
Nicholls Wind Ensemble (Jason Ladd)
Plainfield East High School (David Lesniak)
San José State University Wind Ensemble (David Vickerman)
SCMEA High School Honor Band (Ginger Zingara).
In 2020, this piece is licensed for performance only by the above commissioning ensembles and conductors. To inquire about programming this piece for performance in 2021, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rio Grande Gorge.
Click on each score to magnify it.
early drafts & composing notes
Fearless Canyon was composed over three and a half months, from September - December 2019.
This is the first I've composed for wind band. Though I've played piano since age seven and violin, briefly,
from fourth grade to eighth grade, I've actually never played a wind or brass instrument. Composers learn to write for instruments they don't play by working closely with performers and conductors who do.
My composition process always starts at the piano, with rough sketches like these. They might be really specific musical gestures, like the first two sketches, or a rough picture of how the entire piece will unfold, like the bottom two sketches.
Eventually, I start engraving the piece at my computer, in a notation program called Sibelius.
Just like an artist's initial sketches may change shape on the way to a final drawing or painting, my earliest ideas often shift
as I go back and forth from the computer to the piano in later drafts. The maps above are just a rough guideline
—not a 100% accurate one—for how the final draft of this music unfolds.