Whistling in the Dark


Chamber Ensemble
Fl, BsCl, 2Pc, Pf, Vln, Vla, Vcl
Commissioned by the California E.A.R. Unit
Recorded on Albany CD - Xtet
First performance: May 12, 1999 California E.A.R. Unit, Los Angeles

Program notes: 

Whistling in the Dark, completed in February 1999, is a single-movement work of about thirteen minutes duration which I wrote for the California EAR Unit, and it is an homage to their virtuosity and internal sense of time.  The piece is scored for flute, bass clarinet, two percussion, piano, violin and cello.  Several of the percussion instruments – tambourine and sistrum, maracas, clay flower pots, almglocken and log drum – help create a rather folk-like and decidedly west coast California sound.  There is boppy, cheerful piano music which begins Whistling in the Dark that is suddenly transformed into much more aggressive, dissonant stuff.  It is as if you were looking at a two-faced mask with a smile on one side and a grimace on the other.  The slow dance is tinged more with melancholy than romance, a lonely couple dancing at some tropical backwater bar at the end of the world.  There is fast music toward the end of the piece to which I imagined people dressed in Depression-era garb doing aerobics in hell.  The boppy music, however, reappears as if nothing had happened; it remains doggedly optimistic.  Yet there is something lurking just around the corner, just beneath the surface.  There we were at the tail-end of the millennium; weren’t many of us just whistling in the dark?     - Donald Crockett