Drone on D (2015) by Herb Bielawa
for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, and cello
World premiere; Earplay commission

Drone on D is an abstract composition having no program. It is in one long movement with three major sections: "Discussion," "Relax," and "Driving." The problem I set for myself was to compose a work placing freely tonal writing on top of a D drone. It was necessary to choose D because it is in the playable range of all the instruments. With the note D sounding throughout, there is a strong tonal center on D. It could cause boredom. That is why other musical activity is needed to give interest: it is atonal. Both entities are always present: tonal AND atonal. Instruments all take turns droning. The opening section features short fragments that give interest and meaning over the drone. The middle section is a series of choral-like excerpts of two or more chords, each with short interludes containing the drone. In each excerpt the first chord is always purely major, but as they progress they become increasingly dissonant. The last section is swift and rhythmic where fragments of the drone weave into the scurry of atonal sixteenth notes.

— H. B.    

[from program for March 14, 2016 concert]