The original version of this piece was simply a solo melody for any solo instrument. I composed it in 2006 or 2007 to use as a prelude for a church service when I was working as the music director at First Congregational Church, San Francisco. I didn’t notate it down at the time beyond a few quick, barely legible sketches. Over the years, I drew on it from time to time to play in church services or other settings where some contemplative music was called for. It also evolved over the years, with slight alterations and adjustments each time I played it. In May 2020, flutist Laura Lentz ask me if I would contribute something to a collection of solo flute works she was compiling called “Comfort Pieces.” The idea of the collection was to provide comfort and connection in the midst of the pandemic lockdown that was taking such a devastating toll on musicians’ livelihoods and spirits. Prelude / Chant seemed like a good fit for this theme, and so I fully notated it for the first time to contribute to her collection.
For this bass clarinet version, I initially recorded only the melody on bass clarinet, and then recorded myself improvising various drones, echoes, and countermelodies against it. Through a process of iterative trial-and-error, I gradually crafted this arrangement, and then had to figure out the best way to notate it. It starts out quite calm and meditative, in the spirit of the original solo melody version, but becomes increasingly pleading and anguished as it progresses, before returning to quiet drones and distant filigrees at the end.