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Program Notes: May 4, 1996

Light's Horizon

Roderick Watkins

Notes from the Composer

Light's Horizon was composed in the summer of 1995 for the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra. The piece was originally inspired by a line from Ruskin (himself apparently quoting Johnson), "Its symmetry be as of thunder answering from two horizons." Athough little remained of this image itself as the piece was developed, the title, Light's horizon, recalls this image, as well as several others that stimulated its composition. Betweem them they govern most of its overall shape as well as its detail.

Firstly, the idea of an horizon, a distant line where two planes meet as in a mirror, is an image which relates to much of the musical material. For the majority of the piece, the chords are centered around a pitch in the alto register (often heard on the vibraphone), with notes rising above, and falling below that pitch in a symmetrical distribution. The horizon image also suggests light rising up from darkness. Various shifting relationships between high, bright colors and darker lower ones are at the heart of much of the piece.

Ideas of light and dark, and their emotional, or perhaps spiritual connotations, have often been at the heart of my music. This piece is typical in that it moves slowly through various textures and colors, sometimes freely, sometimes almost ritualistically; it explores these ideas and seeks to translate them into sound in a way that might suggest something of their private significance.

—Roderick Watkins