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Composed: 2014

Length: c. 12 minutes

Orchestration: 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets (3rd = bass clarinet), 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (drum set, snare drum, bass drum, suspended cymbal, assorted metal objects, tam-tam), and strings

About this Piece

Tumblebird Contrails was commissioned by the Pacific Harmony Foundation for the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, where it premiered in 2014, conducted by Marin Alsop.

Tumblebird Contrails is inspired by a single moment I experienced while backpacking in Point Reyes, sitting in the sand at the edge of the ocean, listening to the hallucinatory sounds of the Pacific (the keening gulls, pounding surf, rush of approaching waves, sizzle of sand and sea foam in receding tides), the constant ebb and flow of pitch to pitchless, tune to texture, grooving to free-flowing, watching a pair of ravens playing in the wind, rolling, swooping, diving, soaring — imagining the ecstasy of wind in the wings—jet trails painting never-ending streaks across the sky. The title, Tumblebird Contrails, is a Kerouac-inspired, nonsense phrase I invented to evoke the sound and feeling of the piece.

— Gabriella Smith