Cuts was performed by the United States Marine Band on March 6, 2005 conducted by Captain Jason Fettig.

Cuts (1984)
Large Wind Ensemble

Robert Morris

Program Notes

I completed Cuts on May 1, 1984. For the previous three months I had labored almost constantly to produce a work that would be based on difference, not similarity - a work of various and sundry textures, contrasts and motions. As I composed, several images often came to mind: the wonder and excitement of a fireworks show; a parade of strange, exotic animals and circus stars; the festivity of an odd collection of witty and articulate party guests; the quick intercutting of contrasting images in my favorite films. Yet, I also worked to invoke, on a less immediate, but more basic, preconscious level of hearing, a kind of logic of sound and sonority that would allow the listener to feel at home in the otherwise teaming world of contrast and gesture. The works' title gives some indication of my modus operandi - that discontinuity could be a unifying factor in a composition. For, not only does juxtaposition refresh the ear, but when many different strands move along at once they may confirm or complete each other. This excites the mind that leaps to keep up with what's going on. What helps to keep all this together is the use of a very small group of musical ideas which occur in various degrees of clarity and isolation; what is fleeting here will be obvious there; what is fragmented there is integral here; what is background at one moment is figure at another.

After such an introduction, the listener may wonder what to listen for on the first time through the work. As a start, it's important to know that the piece lasts 15 minutes and is in 11 large sections, each at a different tempo and each with its own mood and formal design. Every section is announced (and ended) with its own 'sound pillar' -a massive, fully orchestrated chord. These chords also often interrupt the progress of a section's music. Within a section, the listener may notice a group of characteristic gestures and motives which, when put in a certain order, form the sustained melody of the four horns in the work's third section. Actually this melody is found throughout the work shaped and reshaped by the instruments that play it. Perhaps the listener will also notice that the music as a certain harmonic signature that colors the musical fabric into a set of similar sonic hues; this is the result of the use of an especially beautiful type of chord (technically known as 6-14), an example of which is the combination of the notes C, E flat, B, D, G and B flat.

When I first began to conceive of this kind of work many years ago, I was unsure what musical medium would have both the precision and scope to realize what seemed almost too idealistic a conception of music for anything except electronic tape. More recently, after coming to Eastman to teach in 1980 and hearing a few very impressive concerts of music for winds, it was finally clear to me that the wind ensemble was the perfect way to satisfy my musical needs. Thus Cuts celebrates the vitality of this flexible and robust combination of woodwind, brass and percussion instruments - one which still bridges the ever widening gap between chamber and concerted music.