Duration: 9 minutes, 30 seconds
Commissioned by flutist, Matthieu Clavé
The title of this work is taken from the review of a concert given on May 13, 1875 at the Cincinnati May Festival. The program featured a performance of Bach’s “Magnificat.” About Bach’s work, the Cincinnati Commercial Review opined: "The work is difficult in the extreme… most of the chorus abounds with rambling sub-divisions. We consider the 'Magnificat' the weakest thing the chorus has undertaken… possessing no dramatic character and incapable of conveying the magnitude of the labor that has been expended upon its inconsequential intricacies."
While it may be amusing to read such a characterization of one of the great masterworks in the Western canon, the review reminded me how often we are quick to dismiss details and nuances in our modern society. Such concerns are often lost in our modern world in favor of small sound bites of information, sweeping generalizations and an impatience to consider the intricacies of any given situation. This failure to be measured, thoughtful and willing to explore the complexities of the issues of our time leads to the worsening of our problems, the coarsening of our culture, and sadly the repetition of our errors. In much the same way that a knowledgeable music lover may scoff at the 1875 review of Bach’s “Magnifict,” how much more will future historians bemoan our inability to comprehend the intricacies of our society?
While these thoughts occupied my initial thinking about this composition, the term “inconsequential intricacies” paradoxically also carried an opposite meaning for me. I composed the work while incredibly dangerous Category 5 hurricanes lashed the Caribbean, the city of Houston, the entire state of Florida, and most of the Southeast United States. Mexico was also rocked by devastating earthquakes. All the while, the world becomes more dangerous as North Korea threatens nuclear war, unimaginable genocide occurs in Myanmar, and domestic unrest grows more heated on a daily basis.
Confronted with all these issues (and more) while writing this piece, I could not help but notice that while our neighbors are faced with profound suffering, we who are not directly affected (myself, the worst offender) blithely attend to lesser concerns. These lesser concerns are elevated and we become distracted by inconsequential intricacies, often ignoring deeper more profound issues.
This composition attempts to grapple with both my responses to the term “inconsequential intricacies.” On the one hand, all the elaborate counterpoint has been carefully worked out and, for me, represents the necessity of considering difficult and often nuanced aspects of a larger problem. The work also features a bass flute solo prominently throughout. The use of this instrument, often interspersed with counterpoint, reminds me that despite surface distractions, there are often deeper concerns to consider.