David Smooke - Composer






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Breathing the Water

(2,2,2,2;2,2,2,0;1 perc (no timp),pno;strings), 15 min., 2004. Premier reading Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Cliff Colnot, conductor (review of this reading here).

This work for orchestra is a response to the excerpted lines from the poem by the American poet Denise Levertov that gives the piece its title: “We must breathe time/as fishes breathe water.” I imagine composing as a way to control the experience of time, where the physical responses to the music on the part of the listener are predicated on the sounds produced. This piece conceives this experience through breath control in an unfamiliar environment. An introduction that functions as the moment before a large intake of air is followed by an asymmetrically rhythmical section that mirrors the act of gasping. In the middle section, a stasis is created by the prolongation of a single moment. Another harsh section is resolved into a steady gentle breathing. In many ways, this final section makes Breathing the Water the most hopeful and optimistic work I have yet composed. 

This is my dissertation piece towards my Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.