Straits, the poem by Kenneth Koch from which my piece draws both its title and inspiration, is an exposition of possibilities. It is a quest for and ultimately a record of acquisition of, as Koch puts it, “ecstasy, unity, freedom, completeness, Dionysiac things.” One of the poem’s voices, Andy, is “looking for a strait,/ A way from this pool into the sea.” In the music I tried to capture some of this restlessness, the desire to trade the mundane for something bracing and new. The music is therefore stylistically promiscuous and unconcerned with development in the conventional sense. If it develops anything, it is this yearning to escape the pool of predictable musical situations. Straits is like a resourceful trout thrashing around in the fisherman’s bucket. This fish is not going to end up swimming in sauce amandine.
The current version of Straits, commissioned by and dedicated to the Meehan/Perkins Duo with gratitude for the generous support of Meet The Composer’s Commissioning Music/USA program, is not the first. The original work included a wildly complicated electronic component that proved impossible to realize satisfactorily anywhere but in a recording studio. Upon reflection it wasn’t a surprising result: while writing Straits I had always intended to sit down at the feast of the last century of music and gorge myself on it all, but the electroacoustic version gave me violent indigestion. So I trashed it. At sixteen minutes and a few crumbs, the present recipe is still dangerously high fat/high cholesterol and unabashedly carnivorous, but let’s say the sauce is better reduced, the spices better balanced, and I took the sommelier’s advice.