I – speculative
II – waning
III – disparate
IV – somewhat cloudy
V – capricious
VI – tenuous
VII – decisive
The instrumentation of Wind Sketches was simultaneously its most exciting and its most challenging aspect. Writing for a four pairs of wind instruments, each with their own unique sonic characteristics, presents potential problems of blend and balance, while at the same time it provides one a tremendous range of tone colours with which to work. These factors, coupled with the knowledge of the superb calibre of the performers for whom I was writing, made the composition of this piece very rewarding.
One of the first and most important decision which a composer has to make at the outset of a work is that of overall structure. Recently I have tended to create pieces in one or two large movements; in Wind Sketches I decided to try a variation on this – to work with a two-part structure, but to break up the first part into a series of short movements. The six movements which form the first portion of this work are modeled on the six movement structure of Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite for string quartet. They are arranged in a series of alternating fast and slow movements, with the fast movements becoming progressively faster and the slow ones becoming progressively slower. There is also a pattern to the lengths of these six movements – the first three become progressively longer and the last three shorter. The seventh movement provides a balance to the first six, not only because of its greater length, but also because that length allows for the use and development of different kinds of musical materials.
Wind Sketches was written during the winter of 1988. It was commissioned by the Academy Winds to celebrate the tenth-anniversary concert of the Winnipeg chamber music group Aurora Musicale. Financial assistance was generously provided by the Manitoba Arts Council. The world premier was on May 9, 1988 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The performers were:
Douglas Bairstow and William Bonness – Oboes
Connie Gitlin and Lori Freedman – Clarinets
Linda Patterson and Norman MacKay – Horns
Vincent Ellin and Amy Bonham – Bassoons
T. Patrick Carrabré – Conductor