Compositional Ideas

Because it is inspired by the actions and accomplishments of the Little Rock Nine, I decided to use nine-note motives as the structural basis for the piece. There are nine, nine-note groupings that make up the introduction, representing the nine members of the group as a whole and as individuals. The second and fourth of the nine-note groupings are actually reflections of the original. The final two groupings overlap the beginning of the first main section of the piece, and their melodic material transitions into ostinato figures that run throughout the work. 

The first main section, built over the ostinato, is a kind of "music of everyday life." It is happy and calm, but moving forward. This music is then caught up in an unexpected whirlwind. This transitions to the second large section of the piece, where these swirling figures come up against a new, rising nine-note motive. This motive represents courage, bravery, and strength. Each time it rises to the eighth note of the figure it meets resistance, but never fails to push through to the ninth. This is followed by an episode that juxtaposes feelings of certainty and determination with those of unease and apprehension. A nine-note rhythm in the bass marimba connects the phrases, first with static scale-wise motion, then with rising arpeggios. The emotional content becomes calmer as the music transitions to the next section.

The third large section of the piece could be called a "Hymn of Reflection" or a "Hymn of Thanks." A quiet moment to reflect on the challenges that were faced, and a moment to be thankful for the strength and courage of those who overcame the challenges. It leads to a celebratory or joyous passage, which is the fourth main section of the piece. It revisits the rising, nine-note figures of strength that now seem more triumphant, and moves to a transitional episode that builds to a moment of silent suspense before the coda begins.

The coda is built over a simple ostinato and pedal tone. Once again there are nine, nine-note motives. There is a difference, though. The nine-note motive from the beginning has been transformed. Those nine notes are now in the shape of a motive that appears in many of my pieces. The idea this sound represents to me is an indefinable combination of hope, love, friendship, and kindness. This motive is heard four times. Each time it is overlapped and answered by an echo (or reflection) of the original nine-note motive that began the piece. The last nine-note motive hangs in the air for a moment, then, in the final two measures, the harmonic pedal tone is finally resolved into a chord of warm light. – Blake Tyson

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