Two Slaves is my newest work, and the hardest to play. A large-scale concert piece in two movements, it is structured around an idea I call the Notes-to-Music Ratio, that has haunted me since I first began composing. The N-t-MR is my scale for judging musical quality. Why are some pieces very busy yet leave little impression on the listener while others have a simple melody of heart-wrenching beauty? Two reasons: the quality of that melody and the way it moves through time. The other components, harmony and tone color, should be dominated by the melody and meter.
The first movement, Slave to the Melodic Imperative, evolves around an atonal melody, supporting and moving it through a sequence of ideas that lead it from tension to rest. Slave to the Metric Imperative evokes the rhythmic and tonal world of the Arabs. To this slave, the meter is fundamental and all the other aspects of the music revolve around it.