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PACIFIC RIM (1988) for Orchestra
Commissioned for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra,
and the Hudson Valley Philharmonic by the National Endowment for the Arts

Orchestra
2 Piccolos (1st doubles Flute), 2 Oboes, English Horn ad libitum, E-flat Clarinet, B-flat Clarinet, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, Tuba, 1 Percussionist (Water Chime, Vibraslap, 2 tuned Cowbells, Pedal Bass 
Drum, 4 Tom-toms, 2 Woodblocks, 2 Crotales, Gong), and Strings

Pacific Rim is very much a reflection of how certain aspects of Asian and Latin-American musics have filtered into my mind and become transformed and absorbed into my compositional thought. the piece is in two linked sections, and may be simply described as a processional and fugue.

The processional moves at a brisk, march-like tempo, but with the primary emphasis on the unfolding of this melody rather than the tread of its rhythm. It opens with a high, floating chord, first in the strings, then in the winds, this being a reminiscence of the sonority of Japanese gagaku music. A pair of oboes enters, stating the basic melodic idea of the processional which then unfolds as an alternation of stanzas for oboes and, later, clarinets, with refrains dominated by trumpets. The other instruments interact with the melody in clearly defined roles, helping to articulate details of the melody's structure. The clearest example of this is in the percussion, which marks off the beginning of phrases, or, by means of the number of strokes involved, seems to count off the number of phrases to come. When the final refrain reaches its culmination, the processional rounds a corner, leaving behind a quietly rising cloud of sound in the upper strings.

The second part begins with a solo for tuned cowbells. This is the start of the fugue, one that is, in contrast to the first part, primarily concerned with rhythmic energy. The fugue subject is presented successively in the strings and then woodwinds, leading eventually to a full orchestral climax that borrows its harmonic basis from the processional. Shortly thereafter, the fugue too rounds a corner, leaving behind distant fragments. Soft gong strokes usher in a pair of slow phrases in the strings, as something of a benediction before returning to the fast pace of the finale. The brass burst in with one last statement of the fugue subject and the piece comes to a boisterous conclusion.

Duration: 11 minutes
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Recorded by the IRIS Chamber Orchestra, Michael Stern, conductor, on
Naxos American Classics
8.559201

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