more on dDistance in the Sea

Well the title dDstance and the Sea occurred to me while I spent a day at the Great salt lake I never envisioned the work to be a description or impression of that day. In fact I had no piece in mind but simply the fact that it was a good sounding phrase for a title.

At this time it was common for me to keep a journal in which good sounding titles, ideas for pieces, interesting words, interesting situations might show up as a possible title or impetus for some future work. That journal still exists and it includes things as small as a single word, quite a few Latin words, interesting phrases like Distance and the Sea for example, and even explanations of topics. I remember in one portion of the the journal there's a long series of notes on architectural shapes and parts of structures. But distance in the sea sat there for a while before I used it.

In fact I used it first for a choral piece with no words that was written for and entered into a local competition held by I believe it was called the salt lake City mixed choir but I'm not certain and I'm not even certain they still exist. It did win the contest.

The piece that would eventually become Distance and the Sea for guitar originally started as the improvisation of a three chord progression to demonstrate something to a student. It was a long time before I returned to that three chord progression and decided to flesh it out. Those three chords were the first three in the econd movement, astack of perfect fifths on F, A, and E. As is common for me I would then ”mine” the intervals of this fragment and they would show up in permutations, transformations, and variants.

 This three chord group contain not only fifths in the chord structure itself but, from first to last a major second. F C G are the two fifths that are stacked in the first chord with the outer notes, the F and G, forming the interval of a second. In addition, the "roots" of the three chords exist at the distance of a major third (F A), a perfect fourth (AE), and a minor second (F E, from first to last). 

This group shows up in transformation as the first chord of the other two movements.
In movement 1, the pitches are CE followed by D Bb, a whole tone fragment or, if you are more narratively inclined, a C dom 9 in first position. The third of the generating motive, FA, is inverted to become a sixth in two statements, E C, D Bb. They are separated by a second in two ways, the low note of the first six E and the low note of the second sixth, D, and also as the high note of the first sixth ,C, directly connected to the low note of the second sixth,  D.  And finally the outside notes, E Bb, a transformation of the second and last notes of the prime figure, a tritone rather than a perfect fourth.

Finally, the opening material of the last movement is again built of superimposed 5ths, E B F#below GDA. The third now exists as the lowest of the lower group and lowest of the top the E and G. The fourth is represented by its inversions the fifths as in the original motive. And the second connects the lower structure to the higher, F# to G.

These are not the only variants or transformations. In fact the entire piece is strongly derived from that opening three chord structure. At times there is a maximal use of one or two of the three possible intervals, in others the ”quality”, major or minor, might be interchanged.

One last thing that has absolutely nothing to do with the construction of the work although it is a reaction to it. I had not long before been very strongly trained in an abstract form of the avant-garde, a more experimental form, following that up with very rigorous and logical training in what I'll refer to as the northeast school, from the period of time that I studied at Columbia University. There I worked with Alan Forte and George Perl, both of whom tutored a very rigorous form of pitch choice and logic. When I was first working on Distance and the Sea, compiling its materials, I remember clearly asking myself  do I really want to write a piece this beautiful? My answer in the affirmative set a course, if only a revised course, to enhanced riches.