"A few years ago a German presenter asked me for my "artistic Credo," which seemed a characteristically European request, but in the spirit of international cooperation I furnished the following: "to make each piece different from the others, to find clear, fresh large designs, to reinvent traditions." Grand and general though it is, the statement seems a good place to begin describing the music on this record.
Sketches for all the pieces preceded their commissions, but the institutions and friends involved in their conception have defined my musical life over many years. The Flight Into Egypt began in a conversation with colleagues about Christmas texts. We agreed that the darker side of Christmas needs representation, especially now, as the distance widens between the privileged and the less fortunate. The piece won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1987.
The Natural World began as a return letter to the Wisconsin setting where I do most of my composing. Beginning in 1984, one song was composed each summer. It was commissioned for the players with whom I worked most closely during those years, the members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group.
The Concerto for Double Brass Choir was composed to celebrate the brass section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, whose playing I admired greatly during my residency there. They are worthy successors of the first Italian brass ensembles (of the seventeenth century), whose sounds I imagined as I walked in Genoa, where the piece was written.
These pieces were composed over a five-year span, and share a commitment to spontaneity, naturalness, and memorability. Their surfaces may be more transparent than their substance. Their apparent simplicity is an invitation to wade in, but the hope is that some will also feel an undertow."