It is rarely simple to speak to questions of “how” and “why” regarding the music one writes, but the impetus behind Melt is one I can describe with relative ease. The places – Jackson Hole and Santa Cruz – in which Melt will first be performed are both very special to me, and while I’ve written pieces that are a response of one kind or another to various places, this piece, this response, and in the end, this message, is different.
Glaciers are profoundly elemental to the development of the landscapes of Northern California and Western Wyoming, it need not be said to any native. And it’s one of the most obvious signs for any visitor that the mountains that they’ve carved like the most noble of sculptures are no mere hills. The great naturalist John Muir was the first to point this geological reality out, to initial derision from scientists of his day and the great surveyor of Yellowstone, Ferdinand V. Hayden, began taking steps to protect the area immediately upon seeing it. And while 11 glaciers (ice that never fully melts with the changing seasons, usually in alpine or arctic climates) still currently exist in Grand Teton National Park, the vast changes that have already occurred within just a few lifetimes means that, in places like California and Wyoming, the mighty ice-scoop of nature will for certain go The Way of the Dodo.
Melt is, plainly and simply, a lament, from no more than a powerless bystander. The tempo indications in this single slow movement are marked “Frozen,” “Drowning,” “Liquid,” and “Final,” and may or may not be taken literally. As a result, the piece might be heard as program music – a musical melting, chaos, and reformation in an altered state – or, in purely emotional terms: an exploration of feelings about these lands I have known my whole life. I myself have found my agony over ice turning to water in itself a kind of personal surprise, but when I think of the glacially slow tragedy unfolding before our eyes, all I can do is put my head down and cry.
Melt is dedicated to my friend Cristi Macelaru, who gives the West Coast premiere at the Cabrillo Festival on August 11, 2018. Donald Runnicles and the Grand Teton Music Festival present the world premiere on July 27, 2018. I am grateful to both of these organizations for jointly inviting me to expound on a topic (in every way) so near to me.