Imagine that five people walk into a room and sit around a circular table expectantly. One by one they begin to speak, not with their voices, but with the instruments each person has brought with them. First the clarinet is heard, then the flute followed by the horn, then the oboe and finally the bassoon. They each vie for attention, seemingly attempting to agree on how they are to proceed. Finally they decide that each performer will tell a story with the others commenting or embellishing or even taking over the story. This is the dream that I had which inspired Short Stories.
Commissioned by The Aspen Wind Quintet and funded by Chamber Music America with funds from The Pew Charitable Trusts, Short Stories was written in 1994 and subsequently premiered that summer by The Aspen Wind Quintet at the Chautauqua Institute in New York.
The work is comprised of six movements with movements four, five and six played attacca. Each movement has an evocative title which hints at the story being told or at the storytellers themselves. Wildly divergent, Short Stories moves from mysterious to boisterous, from playful to painful, and climaxes with a vibrant, joyous dance.
Undercurrents Redux began its life as a solo unaccompanied flute piece titled Undercurrents written during the spring of 2007 for Amy Porter, a longtime friend and inspirational musician. It grew into Undercurrents Redux when the Palisades Virtuosi commissioned it in 2010. The inspiration for the work comes from my remembrances of long childhood summers playing in the streams near Camden, South Carolina where I was fascinated with all of the life that happened above and below the waterline. From skeeter bugs to crayfish to minnows and tadpoles, the water, that I seemed to live in at the time, was an entire world unto itself. The work is a single movement with variations based on the original theme. It moves from an opening lyrical and nostalgic mood to a gradually more active and playful texture to a sense of danger, alternating a multitude of tempi and techniques. It all comes to an end with a series of strong flourishes.
On the morning of November 3, 1979, a caravan of cars and vans occupied by members of the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazis drove to Morningside Homes, a residential development in Greensboro, NC, where an anti – Klan demonstration with approximately one hundred participants was forming. When the caravan arrived, heckling soon escalated into physical violence, culminating with the Klan and Nazis opening up their trunks and withdrawing shotguns and high powered rifles. They fired into the crowd. Eighty – eight seconds later, five demonstrators lay dead or dying. One of them was my brother, William Evan Sampson. In Memoriam: W.E.S. was an an attempt a year and a half after the murders to express my personal feelings about the tragedy. The music to this day pales compared to the actual pain, anger, fear and disillusionment. But, it served as a catharsis and continues to be an expression of my great love for my brother.
Four Winds for flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon was commissioned by the Chelsea Chamber Ensemble and completed in October, 1991. The title refers to the four instruments and also hints at the method of composition. Four Winds was written quickly and spontaneously with almost no pre-composition and no title in mind. This is contrary to how I usually work. I wrote this piece as if I were composing a letter to each one of the players allowing my thoughts to follow their own direction; “with the wind” if you will. Only after all four movements were completed did I return and make adjustments. Then, upon deciding on the title of the entire work, I looked for character titles of each individual movement. They are as follows: 1. Impulse 2. Breakaway 3. Crosscurrents 4. Into the Sun.