Glacial Pathways
for 12 Instrumentalists
Glacial Pathways - is based on the climate research of Joanna Young. The title Glacial Pathways has three distinct meanings: 1. The pathways traced by glacial meltwater and the nutrient-rich sediment within it, from its source in the high mountains to its outflow at the sea. 2. A nod to the 'representative concentration pathways' (RCPs) which are the scenarios scientists use to forecast future change of glaciers. 3. Lastly, the two distinct paths this nutrient-carrying system can take in the future - one of continual degradation, and one of rebirth and renewal. Glacial Pathways attempts to lend a musical representation to the glacial system that carries nutrients eroded from the mountains out to sea and positively influences life though the river, the estuary, and beyond. If this system fails, a large element of the ecosystem that enriches all life in the area will irreparably change. All of the instruments have been assigned at least one specific aspect of this musical incarnation of scientific research. The glacial ice is represented at the beginning⁠ — its stillness and brittle blues captured with the high pitches of the strings and percussion, while the movement of the glacier is the extremely low grinding sounds of the contrabassoon, horn, and bass trombone. The first two short drum outbursts signify chunks of the glacier calving, and the undulating flutes and clarinet describe the meltwater cascading off of the ice. The star of the drama are the nutrients contained within glacially-sourced meltwater, whose presence are needed for a healthy ecosystem. Represented by the high clarinet, string harmonics, and high percussion, a descending four-note tune gradually forms; this becomes the melodic backbone of the piece. After a large calving event, ice, meltwater, and nutrients together rush downstream, carried by a drumbeat that describes the fast-moving river. The supply of nutrients stays plentiful at first, but begins to slow to a full stop. Then we hear the beginning of the second possible pathway: the nutrient tune inverted, heading upwards, signaling the rebirth of the system. While the recovery takes some time, the piece ends with a healthy system in full swing with all trouble a distant memory.  - William Todd Hunt and Joanna Young

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2 Alto Flutes (both double piccolo), Clarinet, Contrabassoon, Horn, Bass Trombone, Percussion (3), Viola, Cello, Bass

Percussion requires: Marimba (4.3 octave), Vibraphone, Crotales (2 octaves), Toms (4)


approx. 13 minutes


Con Brio Chamber Series - November 18, 2022