Of Cloud, of Cataract, of Lake (2018)
wind ensemble

Robert Morris

Program Notes

This composition is my fourth work for wind ensemble, a musical medium whose possibilities continue to inspire me. As the title suggests, the textures of this piece alternately suggest various states of water: misty, even foggy textures; rushing, splashing, violent sprays of sound; and more placid, still and vast sonic tapestries. The title was inspired by a prophetic poem of John Keats.

GREAT spirits now on earth are sojourning;
He of the cloud, the cataract, the lake,
Who on Helvellyn’s summit, wide awake,
Catches his freshness from Archangel’s wing;
He of the rose, the violet, the spring,
The social smile, the chain for Freedom’s sake:
And lo!—whose steadfastness would never take
A meaner sound than Raphael’s whispering.
And other spirits there are standing apart
Upon the forehead of the age to come;
These, these will give the world another heart
And other pulses. Hear ye not the hum
Of mighty workings in the human mart?
Listen awhile, ye nations, and be dumb.

On the formal and structural level, Of Cloud… could be considered a concerto grosso. But instead of being scored for a large and (more soloistic) small ensemble, the proponents of the musical contrast are harmonies. One harmony is the hexachord {C, D, Eb, E, F, G} and its transpositions, which have played a prominent role in several earlier pieces. The other “harmony” consists of all the other forty-nine hexachordal types, which are presented once each, dovetailed in a ring of four-nine notes. This one against the many concept is played out in any number of combinations: the special hexachord alone; the forty-nine alone; the combination of the two with either one or the other dominating, or both equally present.