In Transit was commissioned by Timothy McAllister in the spring of 1999. When I set out to write this work, I was in a period of compositional flux. I felt as if the music I had been writing up until that point only touched on a small corner of my musical interests and I really wanted to explore, in detail, some untouched resources of my musical influences. I wanted this piece to sound like a travelogue, in which each movement represented a new sound environment, both stylistically and timbrally. But I also wanted to maintain a sense of carry over from one movement to the next, as if this work represented a traveler who’s new experiences came to be increasingly colored by past experiences as the journey drew to a close.
The first task was to plot my musical destinations. I finally settled on an impressionistic landscape inspired by the dense fogs of Seattle as a starting point followed by a trip to Miami with a little salsa influence, an elegy reviving a sad song written by my grandfather in the 40’s, a cadenza movement resembling a drive down the busy streets of New York, ending with a contemporary jazz-like reverie on the journey gone by. In order to integrate these movements and to produce the sense of carry over I referred to earlier, I used elements of my grandfather’s song as the basis for musical materials found in all the movements.
I structured the five movements so that the most literal representation of my grandfather’s song would come in the 3rd movement (which bears the title of the original song) and so that the other movements would lead into and away from this movement through more and less obvious uses of the motivic fragments taken from the song. As an example, the 2nd movement, a kind of scherzo in a salsa style, contains series of interruptions of slow music. These interruptions contain fragmented quotations of a descending motive, the “hook” from my grandfather’s song, as well as harmonies based on the opening chord of that song. These interruptions are found in a variety of contexts in the 2nd movement, but only receive their full meaning in the 3rd movement where the missing fragments of the entire melody are slowly drawn together. The culmination of the 3rd movement, and to a certain extent the whole piece, comes near the end with a literal quotation of the tune.
This work is dedicated to Tim and written in the memory of my grandfather, Ed (Papa) Sarché.