Winds of the Neuse (6:15)

06:15
Craig Steffee
0000-00-00
copyright 2010 Craig Steffee (BMI)

Story

The lower Neuse River as it opens into the Pamlico Sound is several miles wide, and is popular among the sailing community for a day sailing expedition or as an origin or destination for a longer cruise. Winds of the Neuse attempts to capture the generally cooperative but unpredictable character of the wind across this expanse of water. Solo bass trumpet, english horn, alto flute and clarinet offer gentle themes backed by the restrained power of a large string orchestra. I tried to create a texture that might suggest sudden gusts of wind against a generally placid (at times, even doldrum-evoking) background, employing to this end a lushly textured string foundation and superimposed impressionistic elements originating in the other instrument groups, including themes that seem to float through the string backdrop, woodwind trills and occasionally abrupt changes in tempo and/or rhythm pattern for selected ornamental phrases. I chose a bass trumpet as a prominent voice for its uniquely dark tone color. The piece opens with a calm, "breathing" string backdrop and serene melodic fragments in the woodwinds and bass trumpet, which build small degrees of tension that, in the middle section, give way to a more lyrical, defined melody introduced by the alto flute and supported by the strings. Prior to beginning the composition of Winds of the Neuse, I had developed a short piece of similar character, and this fortuitously blended well to became the final section with a simple transition that is my favorite harmonic moment of the piece. Winds of the Neuse was developed using Vienna Instruments virtual instrument articulations early in the composition process, in order to embed their expressive character directly. Given the flowing character of the piece, and its dependence on specific instrument dynamics (for example, extensive use of pfp chords in the strings and ornamental use of woodwind trills) and tone color (particularly of the strings and the unique character of the bass trumpet) for its effect, this was a natural way to work.