Mountain Streams of Consciousness

Composed 2018




        Movement I: Counterhoop, 6' 12' 22' feng              gongs, 4' 6' 8' 10' triangles, china and              suspended cymbals, low and                            high oval Earth plates, low and high              found square steel plates, whistle

        Movement II: 5 woodblocks (low, med-              low, med, med-high, high), low and                high bongos, low and high congas,                  kick drum, whistle

Duration 13'


    I. Lamentations of the Soul

    II. Pleas to the Divine

​Performed by

    Carly Barnes, flute/piccolo

    Micheal Barnes, percussion

​Commissioned by

    Micheal and Carly Barnes

Current Semi-Finalist for the 2020 American Prize in Instrumental Chamber Music

​Recording by

    Shawn Milloway, recording engineer

    Owen Hopper

Program Notes

    Much of my work from the summer of 2018 on has been intently focused on matters of the self, beginning various statements and musings on my own internal dialogues and life experiences. My composing before this time served as a method of distraction from the many issues that plagued my well-being, such as a fixation on my physical appearance and an inability to foster any romantic relationship for years. I composed not to process emotions and events – indeed, I composed for the very opposite reason, to AVOID processing these things altogether. After making a decision to confront this realization, I knew one work in particular had to begin a “new seriousness” in resolving my personal demons and making peace with what I am to do with my art and with my life. That work is this one, Mountain Streams of Consciousness.


    This work sets out to accomplish one main goal – to firmly establish in musical parameters the concept of a “negative stream of consciousness.” I began approaching this concept with my saxophone quartet Cavern, where the piece catalogs progress through an abstract string of thoughts, what I refer to as a cavern for allegorical purposes. We proceed through the cavern only to discover we’ve lost our way back to the entrance – we know what it should look (or I suppose hear) like, but in fact we’re someplace else entirely. This represents thinking one’s way into a spiral of despair, to create a feeling and realization of a concept that shouldn’t even exist, but does exist to us. Mountain Streams of Consciousness takes this concept and spins out a different situation, presented in two different frames (the two movements, one slow and one fast). The first frame returns us to the opening – we remember where we started. But this is unsatisfactory, as this neglects what we have learned along the way, forgetting the climactic realizations and solemn, contemplative moments. The second frame progresses fine enough, but matters are complicated when we remember the first frame, the first way of thinking – and this leads to dramatically horrid results. Just because we know something is wrong, with ourselves, others, or the world at large, this does not mean we are entitled to the solution. This comes when we’re ready to accept it, and not a second before. One may think all they want, fighting for solutions or a way out. However, my experience dictates that this “solution” only leads to a forced conclusion that doesn’t actually resolve anything. Mountain Streams of Consciousness proves this in a heartbreakingly successful manner. I tried so hard to find answers with this piece, that I ended up not finding answers to anything. All my thinking, the “streams of consciousness” that constitutes the musical material of the work, doesn’t actually lead to an answer. It leads to only more questions and a cry of despair. Spinning out material, developing and developing, fighting towards climactic moments and times of respite, all of these things were done hoping to find a positive outcome. Just like in Cavern, I have not been afforded answers yet. Perhaps I’m still trying too hard.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            - October 13 2018

Performance History

    10/23/2018 - University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

                         Carly Barnes, flute/piccolo | Micheal Barnes, percussion

    10/22/2018 - University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

                         Carly Barnes, flute/piccolo | Micheal Barnes, percussion

Joseph Foster Harkins