for wind ensemble

by Russell Peck

Information from the composer

Below is a prose poem I wrote for Cave, as printed in the front of the score.

In the Cave there is no sunlight. Everyone has lost sight,
wearing sunglasses over their atrophied eyes.
Plants abound in the Cave, nourished by vapors and black light.
The musicians of the Cave never read music. How could they?
All music is by feel. No one is watching. No inhibitions.
Everyone moves to the music, ensembles in unison.

The Cave is located on a Sethian node
three miles below the earth's crust,
underneath a cornfield in Dekalb, Illinois.
The rock walls ring to one unchanging pulse,
upon which all the Cave dwellers
build their spontaneous symphonies.

Why the poem, and what is a Sethian node? When I was on the faculty at Northern Illinois University and wrote Cave (1975), the head of the Music Department was a believer in Seth, an Egyptian mystic from the age of the pyramids supposedly channeling through a woman in California, who wrote books explaining Seth's knowledge. According to Seth there were special places on Earth that were energy nodes causing powerful things to happen.

At the time I wrote Cave experiments with theatre aspects in wind ensemble performance were very interesting to me, and Larry Livingston, the Wind Ensemble Music Director at Northern Illinois University, was a leader in this direction. So, the inspiration for the inclusion of the poem was that Cave has an option for theatrical performance - with musicians wearing dark glasses, using no music stands, and players moving to the music on stage (as noted in the score.) The poem thus evokes what could happen in actual performance.

Cave is intended as pure music also, of course, and doesn't require theatre at all. The design of the piece is the most pure example of my most essential style feature: climactic form. The piece is a 100% pure classic buildup over a drum ostinato, where the winds ride in 4/4 time over a 3/4 beat like a human pulse.

Incidentally, when the Yale Wind Ensemble performed it "with shades on" in Japan, the audience read my prose poem and thought Cave was about post-nuclear-war conditions - with blind people living in caves, finding the togetherness in music that they had tragically lacked while living in us/them conflict on the surface. I liked that idea, too.