Nickitas Demos

Beach Music



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Beach Music (2004)

Nickitas Demos

I. say good-bye to Babylon - score preview

II. low-tide vespers score preview

III. forever children score preview

Duration: 24'

Commissioned by the Atlanta Chamber Players

For some, it is a rugged mountain path, thick with the colors of autumn. For others, it is the awesome desolation of the desert. For me, it has always been the ocean; the place that serves as a retreat from the daily routine; the place to go to refuel a weary body and spirit. For quite some time, the beach has been a source of relaxation and inspiration. Nearly half of the music I have written over the past few years has either begun or been completed at the beach, more specifically, at Kiawah Island on the South Carolina coast. It was there that I received word from my colleague, pianist Paula Peace, that the trio I was going to write for her ensemble, the Atlanta Chamber Players needed to be completed by summer’s end. This was sooner that I had initially planned. However, I assured her that the work would be completed on time. After sending a confirmation to her via the Internet, I took a long walk on the beach to clear my mind and begin planning the new work. It soon became clear to me that the source for so many of my past compositions had been this very stretch of coastline. Most pieces had, in fact, been formulated as I walked along the edge of the warm, foamy tide with the surf ringing in my ears. I decided to use the ocean itself as my subject matter for the trio and immediately set to work on Beach Music.

The work is cast in three movements, each illustrating a state of mind for me while at the beach. The first movement, entitled say good-bye to Babylon concerns itself with letting go. Whenever I first arrive at the coast, I bring along the heavy baggage of stress and anxiety accumulated over many months. It takes me several days to decompress and begin to relax. The first movement describes my efforts in releasing this baggage. The music is edgy and nervous throughout. Along the way, longer and more melodic lines begin to emerge. They are continually over-powered by the anxious music that started the piece. Finally, after much labor, the work relaxes (with only sporadic gestures in the clarinet still vying for attention) and comes to a gentle and peaceful conclusion. Long after the body, the spirit has finally arrived at the beach. 

The second movement, low tide vespers tries to describe the feeling I have while walking on the beach in the evening, with the sun setting beyond the ebbing tide. The music slowly undulates throughout, at once reminiscent of relentless, albeit peaceful, waves pouring upon the beach as well as a lullaby, as if creation is softly singing me to sleep. At this moment, I am usually overcome with not only thoughts of the beauty of the created world, but upon the Creator of the scene before me as well. The whole vista becomes a living icon as well as a place of silent worship and thanksgiving to God. In the movement, there is a fragment of a melody that is hinted at near the beginning and revealed more fully at the end. However, there is no clear conclusion to the piece nor further development of the melody. Like the ocean itself, the music drifts towards a limitless horizon.

The final movement, forever children is a joyous celebration of being near the water. I have never lost the child-like delight of being on the beach. The entire movement, loosely based upon Greek folk dances, is an enthusiastic dance of both the body, literally tripping happily in the sand, as well as the spirit inwardly freed from its burdens, if only for a time.

The piece is dedicated, with much appreciation, to these members of the Atlanta Chamber Players: clarinetist Laura Ardan, pianist Paula Peace and violinist William Pu.