Systematic Survival (2009) by Linda Bouchard
for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and piano
World premiere; Earplay/Fromm commission

This piece is about the wonder I feel at our ability to endure and to persevere in the face of challenges – and to create unlikely systems to sustain ourselves through the journey.

I believe that Systematic Survival is the quietest piece I have ever composed. As the piece began to take shape, I felt that the best way to enter this world of strength was to go quiet, submerge myself somehow, like a river that runs very deep.

As usual, I am concerned with texture and rhythmic interplay. In an obvious way, I have the woodwinds in one group and the strings in another, The piano straddles the strings and inhabits a textural world of its own by being prepared with small mutes and ringing screws, becoming in this way a “ghost” percussion player. I am always interested in defining the timbral colors of my instrumental groups and finding points of juncture between these worlds.

This piece quotes short segments of the harmonic progression in the Apparition de l’Eglise Eternelle for organ by Olivier Messiaen. It is quite transformed, the chords do not appear in the same register, nor with the same voicing or rhythmic progression though the chords are remnant of his exalted piece.

In the opening the idea of religious ecstasy and timelessness, so prevalent in Messiaen’s music, is expressed by three independent lines of chords, crossing and intersecting at different tempi. This is the skeleton of the piece upon which I’ve superimposed several layers of variation.

— L. B.    

[from program for May 20, 2009 concert]