The Burning Music

(2003) 7′



The Burning Music

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USC Thornton Symphony Orchestra (Donald Crockett, conductor)

While composing The Burning Music, I had in front of me Carl Sandburg’s short poem, “Fire Pages:”

I will read ashes for you, if you ask me.
I will look in the fire and tell you from the gray lashes
And out of the red and black tongues and stripes,
I will tell how fire comes
And how fire runs far as the sea.

Reacting to the poem, I found myself writing a piece almost completely dominated by quick, insistent, repeated notes. After their initial statement by the trombones at the outset, the repeated notes slowly unravel themselves through a variety of textures: from an off-center pyrrhic dance near the beginning to and all-out conflagration towards the end. The only substantial section of the piece lacking these repeated notes is a short chorale. These slowly-changing chords bisect the piece and serve as a moment of repose before the sparks begin flying again, lighting a blaze that eventually fades off into the distance.

Osborne’s “The Burning Music: prelude for orchestra,” inspired by its title and Carl Sandburg’s poem “Fire Pages,” flickered convincingly, its rattling repeated notes taking syncopated turns and chasing courses (as if following a fuse) through the orchestra. The drums kicked aggressively; bells tolled ritually: an athletic seven minutes.

-Orange County Register, 5/27/05

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