LARGE CHAMBER ENSEMBLE - Continental Divide (1996)
Duration - 11:00
flute (piccolo), oboe (english horn), clarinet (bass clarinet), bassoon (contrabassoon); horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, piano (celesta), electric guitar, percussion; 2 violin, viola, violoncello, doublebass/electric bass
Commissioned by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Edwin London, conductor
"The high point of the evening was the premiere of Continental Divide, a clever, jazz-influenced confection by Derek Bermel - winner of PNME's 1996 Harvey Gaul Composition Contest. It was fun, fanciful, and brief."
- The Pittsburgh Post Gazette
"Guest conductor Derek Bermel presided over appealing works in a number of styles. Bermel's Continental Divide makes no claims to monumentalism, instead shooting musical accents off long notes and exuding jazzy energy. Hints of lyricism peek through the textures, as do passages of gleeful cacophony. The composer led a crisp account of his inviting nine-minute piece."
- The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Continental Divide (1996) was inspired by the chapter The Origin and Fate of the Universe, in Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time. Hawking describes a "chaotic inflationary model" for the universe's evolution, in which expansion is not constant, but rather progresses in smaller bursts, each of which defines a new beginning with a musical "singularity" and moving through various levels of musical - rather than physical - space/time. As the movement progresses, particles fly away from the center at different speeds and collide in rapidly increasing entropy.
The Continental Divide is the point in America where water flows to different oceans. I wrote the piece while travelling back and forth between Amsterdam and New York. It was commissioned and premiered by the Pittsburtgh New Music Ensemble, conducted by Ed London.