Wide Open Spaces

Bass Clarinet
Duration: ca. 7 minutes

Commissioned by Bill Ryan and the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble.

While I certainly respect our natural world, I have never, save for a brief period in my childhood when I belonged to the Boy
Scouts of America, been a recreational nature lover. So, when Bill Ryan approached me to write a short piece based on our National Parks for a tour by his Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, I took on the task with a bit of trepidation. Not long after receiving the commission from Bill, however, I heard National Parks Service director Jonathan Jarvis speaking on public radio about the impact of climate change on our National Parks. I decided, then, to compose a work that addressed these concerns.
Wide Open Spaces is cast in three sections. The first aims to evoke the feelings of a walk in the woods with an expansive passacaglia
in the piano and vibraphone, over which the flute and bass clarinet sing a plaintive melody. After some time, this gives way to a melody in the cello which, rather than lead to a contrasting “B” section is, instead, interrupted all too soon by the pervasive and increasingly unavoidable sound of an F# which has been sounding, quietly, from the very beginning of the piece and gradually taking over the texture: the proverbial elephant in the room. Nothing but the F# is heard in the next section, “Waste Land,” which suggests barren emptiness as the result of inaction at the changes visible in the world around us. The piece ends with a “Marche au supplice” (a march to the scaffold) over the F# drone, representing our mindless motion towards environmental catastrophe.
Wide Open Spaces was written in Alexandria, Virginia and Chicago, Illinois in June, 2013. It was commissioned by Bill Ryan and Grand Valley State University and is dedicated to Bill Ryan and the GVSU New Music Ensemble.

Wide Open Spaces

by Inscape Chamber Orchestra, Richard Scerbo, conductor | American Aggregate