Close Up at a Distance
New York Youth Symphony
Michael Repper, conductor
Carnegie Hall, New York City, NY
May 12, 2019
World Youth Symphony Orchestra
JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Kresge Auditorium, Interlochen Center for the Arts, MI
July 21, 2019
Close Up at a Distance is a collection of five short movements (performed without pause) that are inspired by viewing the Earth via the composite satellite imagery in Google Earth. I love spending time zooming and panning to locations both near and far and perceiving the images as both purveyors of geographical information and as collections of abstract aerial art. I have even dreamt in Google Earth. The first movement, “Zoom In,” is a poetic musical evocation of transitioning from the view of the cosmos (when zoomed out as far as possible) to the view of the surface of the Earth (when zoomed in as far as possible). The poignant grit in the second movement, “Verdant Patchwork,” is a response to the rural, lake-dotted grids in and surrounding Interlochen, Michigan, home of the Interlochen Center for the Arts (co-commissioner) . A constant sixteenth note-grid is chopped and sliced in irregular ways to mimic the idiosyncrasies of the way the land has been shaped around these one square mile grids, which are remnants of the Jeffersonian attempt to partition the west. “Zoom Out/In” is a short interlude, inspired by quickly zooming out, floating above the Earth, and zooming into a different location (in this case, traveling between Interlochen and New York). The madcap energy in the fourth movement, “Urban Grids,” is inspired by the skyscraper-laden grids of Midtown Manhattan, home of the New York Youth Symphony (co-commissioner). A constant sixteenth note grid is punctuated by extroverted brass and woodwind solos which culminates in a raucous climax before transitioning to the last movement. Google Earth gives us a simulation of what astronauts call “The Overview Effect”: the cognitive shift that comes from perceiving the Earth in its totality as a fragile blue orb deserving of our protection. The last movement, for trumpet and piano alone, is a conceptual and emotional response to this effect.
Close Up at a Distance was co-commissioned and premiered by the New York Youth Symphony and Interlochen Arts Camp World Youth Symphony Orchestra as part of the First Music Program.