for Violin, Viola, and Bass

Open… was commissioned by the Portland Chamber Music Festival in celebration of its Tenth Anniversary.

Program Notes:

The “Opens” paintings are a series of canvasses by the American Abstract Expressionist painter Robert Motherwell (1915-1991). Motherwell’s collected writings are an incredibly articulate and insightful glimpse into a creative mind of our time. They show an artist confronting creativity, the relationship between the artist and society and the crisis of how to communicate when our common language (representation) seemed to have dissolved. His primary objective as an artist was to distill complex emotion into the simplest of symbols and impulses, stripping away the unessential and laying the soul bare.
Each “Open” painting consists of mostly negative space, punctuated by an off-center rectangle almost primitive or archetypal in its presence. The ambiguous nature of the rectangles is intriguing, seeming to slice through the canvas, suggesting a door or a window, breaking through emptiness and solitude, alluding to a world beyond.
I strove to write a piece that shares this sense of looking outward, of opening onto the world. Open… has an energetic, extroverted character which seems to be always moving forward. A two note motive pervades the work, serving almost as an echo of the word “op-en”. The motive has an elemental, abstract simplicity to it and acts as a mantra, repeated over and over again. It seems to continually remind us that throughout difficulty we must always remain open: open to others, to change and to the world outside – open to possibility and open to the unknown.