Piece Of The Week’s First Guest Blog
This Piece of the Week guest blog was written by “Flash Flood” composer Chris Bernotas. A big thank you goes out to Chris for giving us additional insight into his motivation for this composition. I also appreciate Alfred Music’s help in working with MakeMusic and Chris on this post.
I was commissioned to write a piece for the Lehman Intermediate School 7th and 8th grade band in East Stroudsburg, PA. The East Stroudsburg Area School District has a long history of commissioning pieces and bringing in composers to work with their students each year. I was extremely excited to be invited to work with the students and directors of this terrific music department. The commission was to be an interesting and meaningful piece that allowed for teaching opportunity, student growth, and would also be exciting for the audience. I spent two days working with each of the bands in the district and it was an experience I will always remember fondly. The teachers were wonderful and the students were so well prepared and enthusiastic. I thank them for the invitation to join in making wonderful music in their community.
“Flash Flood” was written following the disaster left after Hurricane Irene struck the east coast. Good friends of ours were among those affected by the flooding. As my wife and I drove through their neighborhood on our way to help begin their clean-up, we were met with the sight of piles and piles of worldly and personal possessions lining both sides of the road. House after house, pile after pile of couches, TVs, bedding, pictures, artwork, carpets, refrigerators, ovens, and so on, were on every lawn. There were tears streaming down our cheeks as we approached our friends’ home. We had read about and had seen the destruction of the storm on TV but to experience the actual destruction by driving through the mountains of memories was emotionally devastating, even as an outsider who was there to lend a hand. What struck us, however, wasn’t the sadness and pain of devastation—it was the determination and spirit of our friends and of the entire community. We were hit hard with the vision of destruction, but were met with smiles and good attitudes from the victims. It is this spirit that provided the inspiration for “Flash Flood.”
Sample Audio Clip (full audio link below)
The piece starts with the ominous feeling when you know of an impending storm and what it might bring. After that we have the rage of the water breaking through “furiously” (M10) and flowing onward. You will notice that the melody is rather heroic in nature (M18) and that is because all of the people we encountered while helping our friends were truly heroes in our minds. They were not beaten down by the storm. They were empowered and ready to make their homes not just livable as they were before, but better than they were before the waters hit them. There is more excitement and toss and tussle of the raging waters throughout the first section with a dramatic build up (M39) that leads to the more tranquil middle section. I used the Lydian mode in the more calm section (M49) that gives the feeling not of raging waters, but of the more still water from after the storm passes. There is now a lake, with houses in the middle of it. The reflection of heroic action is heard with the dotted eighth and sixteenth motives in M55–56 and M59–60. That motive is representative of the pride that the community displayed and of their helping of one another when they had nothing for themselves. Once the tranquil section ends we revisit the memory of the storm that has passed and end the piece in major. The ending (Coda) is bright and powerful and is intended to show that while possessions can be destroyed, human spirit cannot. In the end, community is stronger than before and the heroic spirit of the community is far more powerful than the storm.