An Outward Spiral
Clarinet & piano
Year of composition
An Outward Spiral reflects the feeling of a mental health crisis in which a small idea, be it an intrusive thought, a fatal flaw, or a horrifying truth about the world, spirals out of control and leaves one feeling hopeless. The piece opens with a search for meaning, or “call into the void,” as the clarinet plays a four-note motif into the piano strings. The piano soon harmonizes this motif in a contemplative state representing the calm before the storm. Finally, the theme is transformed into mixed-meter, Stravinskian piano chords in the first of two extended accerlandi representing the spiraling. The first spiral broadens to encompass the extreme ranges of both instruments before suddenly dissipating into a snarky variation of the motif. Finally, the second spiral builds to the piece’s climax and bursts into a single cacophonous chord. The piece’s ending—a brief return to the void theme—may seem to represent oblivion, but it is not my intention to indicate hopelessness. On the contrary, I have often found that these crises resolve themselves in an instant, and meaning is revealed in a single moment of clarity.
An Outward Spiral was premiered by Sergio Coelho, clarinet, and Brendan White, piano, at Sunset ChamberFest, Glendale, CA, July 2022.