Mikel Kuehn - Works

Undercurrents (2013), for 14 instruments (Commissioned by Ensemble Dal Niente)

Instrumentation: flute (alto flute), oboe (English Horn), clarinet (bass clarinet), alto saxophone (soprano saxophone), 2 percussionists (vibes, marimba [low C2], 2 tam-tams, 4 suspended cymbals), piano, harp, guitar, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass [low C extension]

(Ensemble Dal Niente, Michael Lewanski, conductor. Recorded live at the 2013 Bowling Green New Music Festival, October 18, 2013) 

Program Note

Undercurrents (2013), for 14 instruments, was written for Ensemble Dal Niente in the summer of 2013. The American Heritage Dictionary describes undercurrent as: 1. A current, as of air or water, below another current or beneath a surface; and 2. An underlying tendency, force, or influence often contrary to what is superficially evident; an intimation. The first definition describes the timbral layering used in the piece, evident in layered combinations of the three instrumental choirs (i.e., winds, percussion, strings) as well as my approach to pitched versus non-pitched material. The second and most significant definition relates to the narrative of the piece, as different musical personalities are represented by each of the instruments. Over the course of twelve linked sections, many different “viewpoints” of the ensemble are expressed, continually featuring unique groups of instruments that give the piece an ever-changing morphological character. The music is much like a conversation, a dialogue bouncing between individual and combined voices, at times almost orchestral, and then intimate, exposed chamber music. Each of the four wind players uses two instruments: flute/alto flute, oboe/English horn, clarinet/bass clarinet, and alto/soprano saxophone. The “percussion” section consists of marimba, vibraphone, piano, harp, and guitar, and large portions of the piece feature the fused combination of guitar and harp (“guitarp”).


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