Desert Rain God (2014)
an idyll in motion
For string quintet (viola quintet)
Premiered by the ASU String Quintet on April 12, 2014 at the Phoenix Art Museum.
Desert Rain God is a composition based off of a work of art by the same name painted by Louisa McElwain. Composed as a part of a walk-around music/art tour for the Phoenix Art Museum, the work strives to represent the grandeur and refreshing beauty of the natural landscape as it hangs in the museum.
McElwain passed away a little under a year before the piece was written and thus it is written in her memory. She has been sited as being inspired by the music of Johannes Brahms. As such the primary motive of the piece is derived from Brahms’s Begräbnisgesang, a funeral ode for winds and chorus. The piece represents the spinning nature of the waterspout that is the central focus of the work. The texture weaves in an out of the spinning feel, constantly reiterating different versions of the Brahms motive.
As the piece comes to it’s finale, suddenly the entire ensemble drops the spinning feel in order to quote Begräbnisgesang verbatim for a few bars, before combining the melody with the driving texture as the piece barrels towards the end.
-Chris Lamb, April 2014