A simple, twinkling atmosphere suggests but never quite maintains a pulse, allowing the complex and beautiful sound of a ball rolling down the strings of the piano to unfold without resistance: this is the sound from which the entire piece is constructed. As the musical language develops, so too do the many relationships between individuals as their roles in the ensemble continuously shift. However, the inevitable inclination to solidify these relationships, to crystallize the music’s intent as its complexity evolves, eventually overwhelms the balance, erupting into the unwavering enforcement of a bland and rigid pulse, the antithesis of subtlety. This new ensemble, in which the relationships between individuals do not evolve but rather maintain static adherence to the established order, eventually suffocates and collapses upon itself. One at a time, the musicians leave behind their instruments, as well as the restrictions and expectations to which they became so intimately tied, and return to the original source of the work’s sound material—the piano. The twinkling opening texture reemerges as a new composite, a rainfall of sound created not by rigid organization, but by collective exploration. It is only when the individuals relinquish their given roles—when, their efforts combined, they are no longer a clarinettist, a cellist, a conductor; they are simply musicians—that the clarity presented at the onset and pursued throughout can be fully realized.
when, their efforts combined was written in residence at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, and premiered in Oberlin, Ohio in December 2010. It received Honorable Mention in the 2011 BMI Student Composer Competition.