One of the first pieces Audible Abstraction played as an ensemble in our workshopping phase was “Secrets,” a stirring composition by Barry. It was clear from the beginning that it held a good story. Barry revealed all the details eventually, but as a good story-teller should, he kept us in suspense. He started with its compositional origins:
“While producing Karin Marcello’s album Vision in 2010, I offered to compose a modern piece for flute and harp. The resulting composition, ‘Tarot,’ ended up on the album. Before I pinned down my ideas for ‘Tarot’, a number of incomplete starting points emerged. One of these became ‘Secrets’ a couple of years later.
Inspired by ‘The Garden of Adonis,’ a beautiful work for flute and harp by Alan Hovhaness, I created a 3 measure modal harp ostinato featuring mostly 5-note groupings of descending pitches; this idea now repeats throughout most of ‘Secrets.’ Still, there was only an incomplete flute line accompanying the harp, and as a whole the composition needed more. While rehearsing with a local composer’s collective quartet a few years later (with a flautist, harpist and percussionist), I decided to complete the composition and added a soprano sax part and a percussion part.”
Now, this is not yet the end of the story—compositionally or narratively. I am no harpist, and even though The Queen’s Cartoonists has him play an occasional auxiliary part, Greg is no percussionist. Barry then told us the tale that narrates this composition:
“At the time of writing ‘Secrets,’ a dear friend was persistently on my mind. She was dealing with an unexpected pregnancy and consequently her decision to move back to Italy. I was one of the only people who knew and was sworn to secrecy. Through this emotional experience, an extremely dramatic composition unfolded; through-composed flute and saxophone lines flow with and against the repetitive harp ostinato. Unfortunately, the original quartet never performed and eventually stopped meeting. However, several more years later, when Nicole Brancato asked me to join her new trio, I decided to resurrect ‘Secrets’ and orchestrate it for this project. The part for harp easily transitioned to piano, the optional percussion part was dropped, and I rearranged the flute part for trumpet, thinking this might be a more effective partner with the saxophone.”
I was thrilled that Barry reworked this impassioned piece for Audible Abstraction. It is a challenging work to put together as an ensemble—each performer must be in perfect sync with one another and listening with the utmost intention. However, it is an absolutely captivating piece to experience, both as a performer—working from within to express its depths— and as an audience member—following along in the remarkable journey.