Salt Veins (2017)

Program Notes

Salt Veins, more or less, is a work about the ocean and the influence of the ocean on the land (and people) that it touches. In 2013, I moved from land-locked Kentucky to Tampa, FL for graduate school - a move that I expected to be a brief stop along my career path (as of writing this piece I’m still here) - and that change, both academically and geographically, has had a tremendous impact on my compositional work. This piece is a reflection on the geographic nature of that change.

 

The title of the work is drawn from a line in the Sturgill Simpson song Sea Stories:

 

“…Memories make forever stains

Still got salt running through my veins…”

 

While Simpson’s song is about being in the Navy (something I can’t relate to), I can relate to the feeling of having “salt in your veins” as a result of exposure to the ocean and its byproducts: I started composing this work shortly after experiencing my first major hurricane while living in Florida, and there are the countless days of humidity and very intense afternoon rainstorms in the summer.

 

The general texture of the piece is meant to imitate, and evoke the feeling of, ocean waves and spray. This is represented primarily in the way the piece builds itself from the beginning: a single pitch is repeated by all instruments, more pitches are added, and then some sections are repeated so that the music can be recontextualized upon repeat.

 

This bell-like, repeating-pitch gesture may be viewed as the primary “theme” of this work - a gestural theme as opposed to a melodic theme - but it is not the only kind of music heard throughout the composition. This primary gesture gives way to more lyrical passages in different sections, and by the piece’s end is in a completely different context than the first part of the piece.