Instrumentation: Double Bass, Vibraphone, and Piano
Duration: 5 minutes
Commissioned by: Megan McDevitt

Painting Rain was composed for U-M DMA candidate in double bass Megan McDevitt who commissioned four works that were to be paired with major works for her instrument. For this wonderful collaborative project, Megan asked me to respond to the Drei Romanzen (originally for violin) by Clara Schumann and to write a piece that could also be played on high bass. While much of the Schumann work has a quick harmonic tempo, one can always hear the clarity that she achieves by maintaining long spun-out phrases and a delicate texture. I was, as usual, captivated Schumann’s swirls of complex gestures created by using such simple (in terms of texture… not difficulty!) ingredients.

To play on this personal interpretation, I have treated the parts in Painting Rain similarly—each member of the trio plays a different characters, but together sing as equals. Ideally, as with the Schumann, you could listen to this short piece a few times and hear something new to the ear each time, despite its repetitive nature. This project found me amidst a creative stage in which I have been exploring nostalgic melodies and harmonies as well as repetitive figures (micro-“ear worms”) that seem to spiral around and around in my mind for days until I do something with them. Thus, this piece contains a great deal of motivic variation within two contrasting musical textures that use similarly-flavored, slow moving harmonies within each formal area. 

Finally, I think of Painting Rain as a stand-alone interlude. The Interlude as a genre is not too common as it is more typical for compositions to be conceived as a Prelude, Finale, or the “main event,” many of which intend to make an impressive statement. Painting Rain, by contrast, serves as a palette-cleanser, reset button, or “coffee break,” and could be programmed before or after a demanding piece that showcases compositional or soloistic virtuosity.