Returning to the Root


The ten thousand things arise together;
In their arising is their return.
Now they flower, and flowering
sink homeward, returning to the root.
...The return to the root
is peace
Peace: to accept what must be
To know what endures

-Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

            The use of natural harmonics, and the eventual end of the piece in the horn's "primal" position - overtones of the open (F) horn- is the "root" of the horn's sound; here it suggests the acceptance of what is open, natural to the instrument, not fighting imperfections or trying to adjust the intonation to a "rational," tempered scale.   While writing this piece, I thought of the horn and piano as characters in a story.  The story begins with an animated dialogue, and ends with a long aria by the horn.

            This piece was written at the request of the extraordinary horn player and composer, Paul Basler, to whom it is affectionately dedicated.  Many thanks go to Jeff Forden, who helped me explore the horn's capabilities.   The premiere performance, by Paul Basler and Margaret Kampmeier, was at Stony Brook University on April 22, 2004.  "Returning to the Root" received Honorable Mention in the 2004 International Horn Society Composition Competition. 

Score available for purchase.  Page 12, beginning of the aria, is displayed here: