Intrusive Thoughts (2023)

For 12 instruments
Duration: ca. 6'

Original version for dectet commissioned by the Albany Symphony (NY) as part of the Orchestrating in the 21st Century Workshop

An intrusive thought is an unwelcome, involuntary thought, image, or unpleasant idea that may become an obsession, is upsetting or distressing, and can feel difficult to manage or eliminate. 

This is something that I’ve greatly struggled with on a regular basis when I lived back home with my family. These thoughts most always manifested in images of violent self-harm which I would fixate on for several minutes at a time, and were the result of the household I lived in and the relationship I have with my family. 

The opening begins with each of the instruments playing entirely different lines in a constantly flowing texture as to represent a stream of consciousness before being interrupted by said intrusive thought and essentially being stripped down to one note. The following repetitions of this note represent the idea of hyperfixation and being unable to focus on anything else. The jagged and constantly building material which follows it is to represent the violent nature of these images and eventually comes to a halt with the scratch tones in the strings and air sounds in the winds. 

The end section begins with the juxtaposition of air sounds and large homophonic chords played by the entire ensemble, with the final air sound being made by the ensemble being instructed to take an audible breath. This gesture represents and literally demonstrates the action of a deep inhalation and exhalation- something I always do to calm myself down. The glissandi and contrasting sonorities which follow exemplify this conflict of finally being able to release one’s negative emotions and intake positive ones.  

The final bars of the piece end with strings pizzing all the way up to the highest end of the fingerboard- an ecstatic expression of freedom and joy.