Reynolda Reflections, a trio in five movements for flute, ‘cello and piano, was completed early in January of 2000. A specific American painting from the collection of Winston-Salem’s Reynolda House, Museum of American Art inspired each of the piece’s five movements. The piece is dedicated to my wife, Paula. The creation of Reynolda Reflections was the result of a 1999-2000 North Carolina Composer Fellowship, awarded from the North Carolina Arts Council, a state agency. The 2000-2001 concert season will see the first performances of the piece by the Foothills Music Festival, the Mallarmé Chamber Players, the Emrys Ensemble and the Kansas City Summerfest. I wish to extend my thanks to Nicholas Bragg, formerly Executive Director of Reynolda House, for his encouragement to me over many years to create such a Reynolda House-inspired composition as this one.
1. Fantasy in the Woods
The extra-musical impetus for this opening movement was the 1864 painting, The Old Hunting Grounds, by the Ohio artist, Worthington Whittredge. As the painter seems to evoke an earlier painting by the English painter, John Constable, so, too, does the musical material of this movement evoke an English composer. A fantasy by design, this movement is an ongoing variation of the well-known Third Mode Melody by the English Tudor composer, Thomas Tallis. Dreamy lyricism abounds in this Phrygian mode-based movement (E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E), but, like the painting, brief reminders are also present here to enable us to recall that the people of the earth have often misused the earth’s bounty as well as our fellow human beings.
2. Grounded in Machines
Thomas Hart Benton’s 1927 painting, Bootleggers, inspired the second movement. After introductory piano notes, this jazzy movement is based on a ground bass formed by an Octatonic scale (C, D, E♭, F, F♯, A♭, A, B, C). Dialogues between the instruments abound in this dramatic and rigorous movement that meditates on the painting’s obvious themes of Good and Evil. At the climax of the movement, the 19th century American gospel song, Shall We Gather at the River?, is briefly quoted in the piano part.
3. Arias to a Flower
Inspired by the 1922 erotic painting by Georgia O’Keeffe, Pool in the Woods, Lake George, the third movement of Reynolda Reflections uses this painting’s qualities of sensuousness, introspection and reflection as its impetus. The entire movement unfolds over a descending D♭ Whole Tone scale. Reflection and water images abound throughout this gentle, lyrical movement.
4. Dances Before the Barn
Inspired by the 1952 Charles Sheeler painting, Conversation Piece, this painting (like Benton’s Bootleggers) shows a fascination with machines in 1920’s American life. Like Movement 2, this fourth movement alternates between slow and fast sections. Here clean lines of lyrical melody alternate with quick, rhythmical dance-like sections. The musical material all comes from the tonal Pentatonic scale : D, E, G, A, C.
5. Songs to the Wind
The Fayetteville, North Carolina-raised artist, Elliott Daingerfield, created his painting, The Spirit of the Storm, around the year 1912. Mr. Daingerfield’s admiration for Albert Pinkham Ryder’s late 19th century painting, Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens, is evident here. This fifth and final movement is built over a descending chromatic scale. Like the wind in the painting, the rich pianistic patterns shift and change throughout the movement. Over these patterns, unending melody, with the opening melodic line evoking Richard Wagner, abounds in all of the instrumental lines.
Information regarding securing images of the five paintings that inspired Reynolda Reflections may be obtained by contacting:
Reynolda House Museum of American Art / P.O. Box 11765 / Winston-Salem, NC 27116 / Phone : 336.725.5325.