And if you should wish it, here is the score.
It is with some care that I title this piece "Alien Landscapes." I do not desire that the listener picture a distant world, but rather a stark and beautiful region of our own. I have often visited the area of the United States that we refer to as the Four Corners, and each new visit brings with it a renewed sense of awe and wonder. I hope that this piece in some small way reflects that. Though I am hardly the first artist to draw inspiration from the magnificent Southwest of our country, I hope that this, my contribution, inspires you, gentle listener, to see the desert much as I myself do.
The first "Landscape" conveys a broad impression of the desert: its somber promontories, its burning solitude, its wind, and its water. The tempo is slow, as befits a place many people have used for private meditation. The sounds are sometimes harsh and jagged, much like the ragged outline of the land itself. But with music as with nature, the forbidding can be surpassingly beautiful.
The arid plain of the Southwest is dissected by the courses of dozens of rivers. Without water, life as we know it is not possible, but water also brings instability. Rivers can be both beautiful and dangerous; few more so than the Colorado. This "Landscape" draws inspiration from the rivers of the Four Corners, and primarily the Colorado. The beginning is slow. Perhaps the river is still obscured, unseen. The river when first detected is small and quiet. But it grows rapidly, becoming swift, strong and irregular; like a rapids where the river's channel is broken by many obstacles. It ends in dark quiet after the river has passed from view, hidden once again inside the broken land.
Few things are as striking as the stars seen from a high arid climate. Nowhere else are so many stars so clearly visible to the naked eye. Further, in the chill of the night water freezes and expands, doing much of its work chiseling the rock into the haunting grotesque forms that we see. This movement, like the first, is slow, but its texture is more fragmented. The dark colors of low strings and winds underlie almost the entire movement. Staccato pitches in the strings, winds, and percussion stand out as bright points. In the end of this last movement, we hear the initial material returning, and with this sunrise the first striking colors paint the scene, but transformed now with the new perspective.
To my mother, who first introduced me to the majesty of the desert.