Prayers for a Feverish Planet

Interdecadal Oscillations (2020) – Kristian Twombly (United States)

Interdecadal Oscillations was written in response to a call for works on the subject of climate change from Ann DuHamel. Directly inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning,” the composer took a precomposed work for solo piano and filtered it through a scientific article on the subject of short (15-35 years) or longer (over 50 years) variations in surface temperature. What remains is fragmented and pointillistic, which mirrors the devastation that is left behind from such swings in temperature – for example, coral reefs that have nearly disappeared in parts of the Great Barrier Reef.

one of the Google Doodles that appeared on Earth Day 2022

Ann adds: I asked Kristian if he could expand a bit more on his notes – mostly, I was curious about the use of “Interdecadal Oscillations” (which I’d never heard of before). 

His response: “The previously composed piece was by Brahms (Op. 116, No 4). 

And “interdecadal oscillations” comes from the article that I used as the “filter” for erasing the notes in the original Brahms. Basically, it refers to cycles that are longer than one decade, or between decades. I loved the phrase – it evokes sonic thoughts and refers to the aspect of climate change that I was hoping to get at.

… This process was something pretty new for me –
I only employed it once before, on a solo flute piece I wrote a while back.
It’s directly inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning”,
where he bought a pencil drawing by de Koonig and then meticulously erased it and displayed the paper.
It was of course impossible to fully erase the original, so some faint aspects of it remained.

That very much makes me think of climate change effects like dying coral reefs.”

“Erased de Koonig”

Ann adds (again!): One of the words that I always have to look up when I encounter it while reading (in addition to “heuristic,” “epistemological,” “phenomenological” … wait, maybe I shouldn’t admit to my intellectual failings here, in this rather public space? …) is “palimpsest.” While the Rauschenberg isn’t exactly the dictionary definition of palimpsest, it is a piece of paper on which previously written material has been erased. Maybe this will help me remember!

Kristian Twombly

Kristian Twombly is Professor of Music at St Cloud State University, where he has served as Chair of the Music Department and as Faculty Fellow for Our Husky Compact. He is also President of the Board of Directors of the St Cloud Chamber Music Society and the Minnesota College and University Council for Music. 

As a member of the experimental performance collectives The Bay Players, No Steve, When Morty Met John, and Interplait, Twombly explores non-traditional musical performances. His works and performances explore atypical spaces and formats, from tearing paper to wearing a bear mask.

Twombly earned degrees in Music Composition from the University of Maryland, where he studied with Tom DeLio. He currently resides in St Cloud, Minnesota, with an aquarium with an escalating snail population.