Aura (2016) by Stephen Blumberg
for clarinet, cello, and piano

"Aura" is defined as "a subtly pervasive quality or atmosphere seen as emanating from a person, place, or thing." Other definitions refer to "a luminous radiation (nimbus)" or "an energy field that is held to emanate from a living being." Still another definition discusses the term's use in parapsychology and spiritual practice: "an aura is a field of subtle, luminous radiation surrounding a person or object like the halo or aureola in religious art." In Aura for clarinet, cello, and piano, I've attempted to create various types of "aural auras," mists or clouds of resonance or subtly layered timbres combined to simulate luminosity. The piece begins and ends with a soft and delicate texture of chords in the piano, descending from the highest register, colored by long sustained notes on the cello (natural and artificial harmonics) and a subdued, slowly unfolding line in the clarinet. In some places I combine two or more instruments in such a way as to forefront a moving line against a held note or chord, effecting a sort of halo of resonance that seems to emanate or hover, or from which one sound seems to emerge like an image in a fog. One section suggests the heavy stillness of an electrical storm, with sudden flashes illuminating the darkness. In another part towards the end the tempo quickens and the atmosphere shifts briefly to one of joyful exuberance before returning to the slow, soft, and sustained sonorities of the opening.

Aura was commissioned by TriMusica (Sandra McPherson, clarinet; Susan Lamb Cook, cello; and John Cozza, piano), who premiered the work at the Festival of New American Music at Sacramento State in November 2016.

— S. B.