Lois V Vierk
This piece was inspired by the twisted sandstone canyon in the southern California high desert in Angeles National Park called "Devil's Punchbowl". At this exquisite site you are always aware of both extreme beauty and also danger. Descending into the canyon the trail is rugged, rocky, and treacherous, and the head is scorching. But rising up from the deep gorge are steep, magnificent mountains with their cold streams and sweet smelling pine trees. The vistas are grand. Far in the distance, soft shapes and hues of the landscape melt into one another.
Devil's Punchbowl unfolds slowly. Musical materials are constantly developed, pushing the work forward from a relatively simple beginning to its dynamic and colorful climax. The piece opens with languorous brass slides downward. String phrases answer the brass, and woodwinds add color and wisps of melody. Gradually the strings begin their long ascending glissando, sweeping the woodwinds up to their highest register, ending the first section.
Immediately strings and low woodwinds enter with agitated multi-color, ever-changing trills and tremolos. Various instruments combine to form sinewy melodic shapes which creep slowly upward. Percussion becomes more pronounced. Brass adds rhythm and harmony. Each phrase builds on the one before as, little by little, the music becomes faster, louder, and rhythmically emphatic. Trombones and celli playing fortissimo glissandi in the lowest register propel the piece to its full orchestral climax. After the high energy of the climax the music returns briefly to the lyrical mood of the opening, ending gently.
Devil's Punchbowl was commissioned by the Bang On A Can Festival and the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra. The commissioning of this work was made possible by a grant fro the Meet The Composer/Reader's Digest Commissioning Program, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund.
The recording of Devil's Punchbowl is of the premiere, given by Victoria Bond conducting the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra on March 21, 1994. They performed the piece beautifully.
Below are two versions of the score. First is the final version, incorporating several sets of edits to the orchestration made after the premiere and over subsequent years, and which is dated 2009. The major changes to orchestration, emphasizing an expanded role for trombones, etc., are marked above the staves of the score.
The second is the original score as used by Victoria Bond in 1994 (with numerous indications marked for my first set of edits).