Canter Into Black was commissioned by the New York Youth Symphony. Given this opportunity to write for such a talented group of young people, I sought out subject matter that was close to my heart and would hopefully communicate well to the performers. I ultimately decided on a scene from my favorite play, Equus. Incidentally, the story is based on a teenage boy and his intense passion and obsession with horses.
In this scene, Allen relays to another a secret ritual he performs with a beloved horse in an open field late at night. This scenario emulates the mystery found in many religious rites, but is infused with strong romantic connotations that give way to an intensely acted-out ride into an imaginary battle. The scene culminates as the horse “twists like a flame” and Allen jumps off, drops to his knees and prays, “Amen”…Blackout!!!
When I read this scene for the first time, I was incredibly moved not only by the power of this young boy’s passion, but also by the momentous, rising intensity of the scene which drops off like the edge of a cliff with the stage-blackout at the end. I had never experienced a climax in art quite like this and was very much inspired musically by this idea. Hence, the piece I composed has a similar dramatic tension and shape as this scene in Equus. I also utilized much of the rich imagery from this scene in composing the work and made several verbal notations in the score that allude to the various, inspiring images. I did this hoping to communicate the general aura of the scene to the performers so they could in turn transform this understanding into an aural experience that captures the emotive content.