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trombone, tuba, piano and ensemble

Commission: SMCQ, with support from the CCA

Premiere: March 4, 2004, MusiMars 2004: Modulations de fréquence, Salle Pollack — Pavillon Strathcona — Université McGill, Montréal (Québec)

1. Overstrung
2. Grind
3. Wisp-Spurs of Conveiling Intense
4. Contre-Point d’Esprit I
5. perhaps then, a line meant change…
6. Rewind
7. Psyclo
8. Contre-Point d’Esprit II

Begin by regarding Double Entente as a double chamber concerto featuring trombone and tuba. Next, due to the virtuosic writing also found in the piano and percussion parts, regard the work as a triple, or even quintuple, chamber concerto. Next, regard the work as a modern chamber concerto grosso of sorts with the smaller concertante group including brass, piano and percussion, and the larger, countering ripieno group including only strings. Next, regard the instrumentation and staging of the entire ensemble as a mirror-form, whose explicit symmetry divides the ensemble into two evenly matched groups (with the solitary piano functioning as a transitional and linking fulcrum). Now consider the fact that, to varying degrees, the music itself casually supports all interpretations above, yet does not consistently support any one of them. Finally, the now quite bothersome question of what this piece actually is has, in itself, become as good an answer as one might hope to find for the other equally bothersome question of what the work’s title intends.

The eight movements of Double Entente are divided symmetrically into two groups, with each of the four movements in one group correlating systematically with those in the other. The opening “Overstrung” is a high-strung overture featuring gyrating Baroque-like strings; its correlating fifth movement, “perhaps then, a line meant change” is related only at the level of texture (the rhythmic unison prevailing in “Overstrung” now returns chorale-like with the essential character of “perhaps then”). The shorter ensuing second and sixth movements (“Grind” and “Rewind”) are coda-like appendages. Paradoxical dualities underscore the vapourish third movement (“Wisp-Spurs of Conveiling Intense”). While the rhythmic texture found here is complex, dense and variable, it nevertheless coheres effortlessly as a revolving continuum of calm ascent. But this uniformity and its lingering effect of polite agreement must be challenged, and the distant influence of the concerto grosso now surfaces with the expectation for the return of force and counterforce; the correlating seventh movement (“Psyclo”) eventually delivers the anticipated response with unrelenting, unnerving — perhaps even disorientating — intensity. The paired “Contre-Point d’Esprit” movements (I and II) are tapestry-like complexes of layered contrapuntal devices. Included here are canon, mirror inversion, simultaneous multiple tempi, proportion, structural convergence, palindrome, and additive and subtractive processes.

Howard Bashaw

  • Recording: available at SMCQ’s office