Cascading Resonance is a 20-minute long meditation on harmony and resonance. Scored for five pianos and five percussion (3 vibraphones and 2 glockenspiels), it treats this ensemble as a single hyper-resonant “meta-instrument,” blending its component timbres together into swirling shimmers of color. It is in five continuous sections, each exploring a different type of resonant texture. The first section is open and fluid, in the mid and upper registers, moving gently through a kaleidoscopic prism of chords, ever circling away from and back to the opening sonority. Very gradually, it sinks, lower and lower, finally settling on a deep, dark open fifth in the bottom register of the pianos. The second section picks up from here: a gradual crescendo in the pianos’ lowest register, a gentle rumble, building, building, building into an oceanic roar. Just when it reaches its peak, it lifts, we are suspended for a moment, and then section three: glittering chords in the highest registers of the pianos and percussion, like celestial rain. Another circling progression of harmonies, now in the uppermost registers, watery, crystalline, a sinewy melody floating on top. As the melody winds down, section four bursts forth: thunderous arpeggios covering the ensembles’ entire range, filling up the whole pitch space, giant rainbow waterfall-fountains, building and intensifying to a ringing release. Section 5: Not quite the end. Before the resonance dies completely, a lone piano enters with a plaintive, slightly distorted version of a tonal sequence. The simple resonance of pure, bare triads. The pattern varies and passes between pianos, wistful and nostalgic. Finally it works its way down, down, down…at last coming to rest on a low Eb major triad. Four times, piano 3 lands and four times the others gently lift off into a glistening evocation of the work’s opening. And then the deep, deep resonance of silence.
Cascading Resonance was commissioned by New Keys and premiered by New Keys and William Winant Percussion at Piedmont Pianos in Oakland, California.