In The Canyon is a tone poem for wind ensemble in the shape of a large scale palindrome: the second half is (roughly) a reverse of the first half. The piece evokes different atmospheres that one might experience in a canyon- quiet silence and mystery, relaxed flowing music, bird calls, and huge imposing grandeur.

The first section is quiet, dark, and mysterious and lays out the main motif of the piece: the changing chord motif in the trombones and tuba. The timpani opens the piece by quickly alternating between G and A flat, which serves as the basis for the changing chord motif: the top voice descends from A flat to G, while the lowest voice ascends from G to A flat, creating an ambiguity between A flat major and C minor. The motif consists of the same chords, forwards or backwards making it a palindrome, just like the entire piece. This chord motif is tossed around the different sections of the ensemble until it becomes the basis for a mysterious chorale in the horns. The second section interrupts with a march where the chord motif becomes a quick bird-call like figure in the woodwinds and a descending arpeggio figure is developed into a confident march in the brass. The march eventually exhausts itself and settles down into a piccolo solo that leads to the third section. The third section is a calm, flowing waltz in D flat carried by the marimba and saxophones. It keeps veering up to D and down to C, relating to the chord motif, which is also played in its bird-call form by the winds. The theme of the waltz is a slower transformation of the march theme.

After a brief interlude and return of the opening timpani solo, the second side of the palindrome begins and the waltz plays in reverse, making it sound awkward and agitated. This continues backwards until the march returns. The march at first charges forwards, but it too falls into its strange, unsettling reversed version. As it gets back to the beginning of the march and the end of the first section, the tension builds, the music gets more dissonant, and the ensemble dissolves into a huge percussion crescendo. The horn chorale from the first section returns in reverse, this time as a grand, apocalyptic version for full orchestra. Then the music collapses into C minor darkness. The chord motif is passed around in reverse, sounding like distant cries in the darkness. Eventually it makes its way back to the trombones, which build it up for a final time. The trumpets reach a high A flat and try to pull the music up towards A flat major, while the rest of the orchestra, one by one, slowly falls from A flat to G (the reverse of the opening). The trumpets finally give in and fall to the G, and the timpani solo from the beginning returns to firmly end the piece in C minor.

Specific instrumentation can be found in the second page of the score.

MIDI Mockup recording:

For additional information, questions, or parts requests, contact Aidan.