SHADOWS was commissioned by West Chester University of Pennsylvania for percussion professor Ralph Sorrentino's ongoing project to expand the solo percussion repertoire. WCU student Luke Thurston gave the world premiere to open his Senior Recital on May 7, 2022.
When Ralph invited me to write a piece for Solo Timpani, my first two thoughts were: WOW I'D LOVE TO and UH-OH, HOW DO I WRITE FOR ONLY 4 NOTES? -- I have a clarinetist's brain and an ensemble brain, and I'm used to having many notes at my disposal.
Aside from the obvious answer of rhythmic patterns, I quickly became fascinated by the infinity of tone colors -- choices of mallets and other beaters, the tremendous range of dynamics, and the many parts of the drums' heads. Suddenly a set of timpani became an orchestra of sounds. Since they're all shades of one basic sonority, I thought of this like infinite shades of one color, and that's when the mission came into focus.
Soon after deciding on the working title FOUR SHADES, with each movement focused on different tone colors, I visited an empty office space freshly repainted all-white uniformly on every wall. But there were many windows, varying types of overhead light, and walls winding around structural columns. Although there was only one shade of paint, the space reflected an infinite array of colors from the many shadows and light sources. And that's how this suite became SHADOWS, suggesting both depth and ambiguity.