Cloudscapes for flute choir (six flutes, alto flute, and bass flute) was commissioned by the Indiana State University Flute Ensemble, directed by Dr. Joyce Wilson; it was completed in mid-March, 2009, and received several performances in October and November.
I often find inspiration in nature, and the idea of doing a piece based on could formations has been in the back of my mind for a long time. In the case of Cloudscapes, inspiration was retroactive; it wasn’t until the first movement was well under way that I recognized an affinity between the music I was writing and cirrus clouds, both wispy and delicate. Once I realized this, it seemed that the affinity had been there all along, just waiting to be noticed.
Cloudscapes is in two movements, both titled after cloud formations. Cirrus clouds are quite common, seen all over the world. Nacreous clouds, however are rare. You aren’t likely to see one unless you travel to polar latitudes during winter. They form in the stratosphere, as haigh as 40 miles above the earth’s surface. In appearance, they resemble polished mother-of-pearl, hence the name. Because of their extremely hile altitude, they can reflect sunlight from below the horizon before dawn or after dusk, and appear to glow brightly in the dark sky. I’ve never seen one, but I imagine it must be an impressive sight.
In commissioning Cloudscapes, the ISU Flute Ensemble requested a piece that would be challenging for all performers, and would especially contain interesting parts for the alto and bass flutes. I was happy to oblige, and wrote a piece that attempted to treat all eight players as equal partners.
The ISU Flute Ensemble performed Cloudscapes several times during the Fall months of 2009. The performance presented here is from a performance on November 8, 2009, on the Senior Recital of Amy Chandler, who played the alto flute.