Pre-Pulse Suspended

for piano, bass clarinet, flute, bassoon, horn, trombone, strings (single), clarinet
By Lee Hyla

Pre-Pulse Suspended is a tight piece structurally, but it covers a lot of ground in its concise single movement. The striking opening, a gritty and incisive duet for violin and bass clarinet, with each instrument restricted to a very narrow compass like a genie struggling to escape from a bottle, is mined continually in the course of the piece. Elements of this duet are almost always perceptible throughout the piece and are alternately fragmented and sustained. After a craggy beginning in which both the repeated note idea and fast aggressive rhythmic gestures play a prominent role, more lyrical versions of the opening material take hold in the quiet center, culminating in a heartbreaking passage for strings alone. The noisier music creeps back bit by bit, and the repeated notes-now chords-ultimately hit a frenzied pace. The piece ends with a quotation from Stefan Wolpe’s Chamber Piece No. 1, another masterly, idiosyncratic work that was a source of inspiration.

Pre-Pulse Suspended was commissioned by the Fromm Foundation and was written in 1984. It received its first performance at the Tanglewood Music Festival in the same year. The work is scored for a chamber orchestra of twelve players: flute (doubling alto flute), clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon; horn, trombone; piano; two violins, viola, cello, and contrabass. Pre-Pulse Suspended is dedicated to the composer’s parents; the elegiac core of the piece is in memoriam for Hyla’s father, who died in the year of its composition. -Eric Moe

Other works by Lee Hyla:
“Make music of everthing.”
--Georges Aperghis