Commissioned by Hannah Weiss. Premiered at the University of Michigan on May 18, 2014.
The Summer Triangle is an astronomical asterism involving an imaginary triangle drawn on the northern hemisphere's celestial sphere, with its defining vertices at Altair, Deneb, and Vega, the brightest stars in the three constellations of Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra, respectively. This work draws upon the mythology behind these three constellations for its inspiration.
Lyra refers to Orpheus's lyre, his instrument of choice. He was such a musical master that his song could charm the birds, fish, and wild animals, and ever coax trees and rocks into dance. The first movement, Vega, begins ominously, arising from a low C and shrieking at the top of the flute's range before settling into a plaintive song. The shrieks continue to interrupt, harbingers of Orpheus's doom at the hands of the Thracian Maenads, who tore him apart for not honoring Dionysus. Abruptly, Orpheus's tune changes gears into a panicked dance that whirls around in an attempt to save himself from the Maenads. In the end, his attempt is in vain, and his final song fades away as he is ripped to shreds.
The second movement, Deneb, is the brightest star in Cygnus, the swan. This melancholic song refers to the Aesop's fable in which a swan, mistaken for a goose, is readied to be slaughtered for dinner. Threatened with death, the swan burst forth into song and thus revealed its identity; its life was then spared. The music begins low and melancholic, gradually building in intensity as if it is a plea for life.
Altair is the brightest star in Aquila, the eagle that carried Zeus's lightning bolts. The third movement imagines its flight during battle. A continuously moving flow of irregular rhythms and fluid gestures weaves up and down while intermittent sparks fly with special flute techniques like flutter tonguing, vocalization, and jet whistle effects. In this finale, the energy and virtuosity builds to a breaking point.
Duration: ca. 15'30"