Cycles Unspoken (1995)

for orchestra

Like many of my other works, Cycles Unspoken came from a dream image. I was riding a mystical bicycle, unencumbered by gravity, traversing different landscapes. The simple perfection of the scenery suggested that these surroundings were created by using mathematical equations used to define chaos, fractals.

The work is in four movements, played without pause. The first movement, the largest section of the work, opens with an unceasing rhythmic pulse on a single pitch. The pitch becomes surrounded by mostly diatonic pitches, changing into cross-rhythms, notably two beats over three beats. The clusters of notes evolve into simple repeated melodic patterns. The rhythms and harmonies gradually grow more complex as this movement drives to its climax. An implied recapitulation of the opening music grows, but it is interrupted by the extreme serenity of the second movement. A simple cyclic string chorale of four chords subtly accelerates and decelerates  over the half-step rocking of the low strings. A gentle melody barely emerges in the english horn. The chorale then softly rises leaving only a simple chord.

The third movement acts as a large scale retransition to the opening material, building an accelerating from the foundational low note. A dense texture is created by gradually adding layers. The texture eventually rises up and thins out to one note, leaving behind the opening pulse for the fourth movement. This final movement synthesizes the ideas from all of the sections, rounding out the piece.

I find that I often use long bike rides as places to mentally sketch compositions. When I finished this work, I noticed that the formal architecture of Cycles Unspoken almost directly mimics a specific training ride back where I grew up in New Jersey.

This recording of Cycles Unspoken is by the University of Southern California Orchestra, conducted by Donald Crockett.