Yough

Composed 2021

Instrumentation

    bass clarinet

    violin

    piano

Duration 13'

Composed for

    2021 Etchings Festival    

    East Coast Contemporary Ensemble (ECCE)

Movements

    I. The Youghiogheny Gorge

    II. The Falls/High Bridge

    III. Lower Yough

Performed by

    ECCE:

    Barret Ham, bass clarinet | Natalie Boberg, violin

    Geoffrey Burleson, piano

Program Notes

    In May 2021, at the conclusion of my doctoral residency, my father and I biked the Great Allegheny Passage which stretches 150 miles from Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh, PA. The sensational trail is quickly gaining notoriety as one of the best maintained, most scenic, and overall finest long-distance bike trails worldwide, and our own excursion underwrote that point in our minds. Gorgeous overlooks, bridges of significant length and height, a creative urban link in Pittsburgh, and a general smoothness and ability for speed seared the landscapes and our passage to permanent memory.

    For me, foremost in that memory is the travel through Pennsylvania’s Ohiopyle state park, known to most as the place of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and for the Youghiogheny River, which in Ohiopyle contains the most trafficked whitewater east of the Mississippi. The gorge, towering and monolithic, looms on both sides of the river as the GAP pushes deeper inward. The town of Ohiopyle, harboring stations for the old B&O and Western Maryland railroads, sits at the place of the Falls, a spectacular Class IV waterfall that drops 18ft only to be followed by an even more dramatic 180° “Loop” that drops such significant elevation that the high bridge soars above the river only a mile outside town. From here, the Lower Yough’s whitewater has gained fame and prestige for its approachable yet still challenging Class III rapids over a 7.5 mile stretch in the continued gorge of unparalled beauty. Biking along the western rim, flying downhill over 18 miles to Connellsville, is an indescribable joy.

    Yough, then, celebrates this passage. Strong, aggressive gestures reminiscent of the rock that punches through the water appear throughout, with the central movement for solo piano a personal remembering of the beauty in the Falls and the serenity of the gorge’s deep interior. The final movement, tracing a familiar landscape, becomes ever more dramatic as we power forward to the calm waters beyond the gorge’s rapid fury.

                                                                                                                                                                                                       - July 10 2021

Ferncliff-Trail-Ohiopyle-High-Bridge-Fall-Foliage.jpeg

Ohiopyle High Bridge from Ferncliff Trail, Ohiopyle State Park, PA

Performance History

    08/20/2021 - Northampton Center for the Arts, Northampton, MA

                         East Coast Contemporary Ensemble:

                         Barret Ham, bass clarinet | Natalie Boberg, violin | Geoffrey Burleson, piano

Joseph Foster Harkins

composer