(A Concerto for Organ and Percussion)
A concerto for organ and one percussion player, Constellations was completed in November of 1980 and was composed for percussionist Joe Roma, to whom it is dedicated. The piece explores two of the most potent musical sound sources: Percussion and the pipe organ. Constellations‘ four movements are named after stellar constellations:
1. Caput serpentis (The Serpent Head)
2. Cygnus (The Swan)
3. Pegasus (The Winged Horse)
4. Cauda serpentis (The Serpent Tail)
The percussion instruments used in the work consist of two timpani, brake drum, suspended cymbal, three tom-toms, vibraphone (played with both mallets and a string-bass bow), triangle, glockenspiel, xylophone, orchestral chimes and snare drum.
Although in four distinct movements, the form of Constellations, in the abstract sense, consists of two movements since the first three serve as an exposition to the fourth movement. The fourth movement is not only similar in length to the opening three, but also serves as a type of development and recapitulation to the entire composition. The pandiatonic harmonic materials of the highly rhythmic Movement 1. serve as a binding element to the entire piece, reappearing throughout the composition in many different guises and, ultimately, brings the work to a close.
Constellations was given its World Premiere by Joe Roma with the composer as organist in May of 1981 in Binghamton, New York. The following October, Constellations became one of the five winning finalist works in the 1981 Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards in Washington, D.C. In Kennedy Center and in broadcasts of that performance throughout the world via Voice of America and NPR, Mr. Roma again served as percussionist with the late Leonard Raver performing the organ part. To date, Constellations remains the only composition featuring the organ to be chosen for the Friedheim Awards.