What a composer intends to write and what music finally emerges are not always one in the same. Part of the craft of composition is learning the art of balancing compositional intention with the inherent musical tendencies of the work. Sometimes these two situations coexist, but often, they do not.
Unlike most of my works, Symphony No. 1 started out without a story or a catchy title. My music leading up to this work had evocative titles like Daydreams of Arcadia or explored ideas such as the optimism of the people of Oklahoma. I wanted my first symphony to be a piece of absolute music, without reference to an external narrative. It started with an almost clinical prospectus: Composer will write a significant work for substantial forces, in this case a symphony complete in one movement without external narrative for symphonic wind ensemble with approximate duration of thirty minutes.
The symphony had other plans. As I added notes to my sketches, my original plan to introduce material in the first section which is manipulated in various ways only to return in the final section soon began to create a narrative of its own, a narrative about resilience and faith. Perhaps it's a reflection of the uncertainty in my life as I was writing it, or perhaps it is a manifestation of the pressure resultant in writing a dissertation. Either way, the symphony was not happy with being a piece of absolute music.
The idea of a musical work representing a journey has been long-established, and this Symphony follows that tradition. It is structured as one movement with six segments which make up a sort of formal palindrome or mirror form (the musical material of episodes I and VI are related, as are the materials for II and V, and finally III and IV), which lends itself well to the idea of a journey and return. From the simple optimism of the beginning we are taken through an introspective journey of self-discovery, leading to a meditative center featuring a woodwind quintet and based on an abstracted hymn tune.
Within this contemplative center there is a resurgence of motivation, which becomes evident as we make the journey back home. Melodies are predominately more confident with an increased drive, and as we get closer to home we do so with a newfound purpose, with pomp and circumstance and a realization that all will be fine.
So yeah, Symphony No. 1 is not the symphony I intended to write at all.