Episodes for Orchestra
Although scored for full orchestra, Secondary Colors is essentially of a piece with Barnson’s music for string quartet. Like the quartets, it is an exploration of extended string performance techniques, but with the unconventional quality of the individual part-writing expanded to encompass the ensemble texture. Meanwhile, the winds, brass and percussion stand apart, augmenting and punctuating the music of the strings.
Structurally, Secondary Colors is episodic. Originally written as a series of short movements, the episodes were linked by the composer in advance of the premiere, in order to underline the unity of the sequence as a whole. The piece also exists in two scorings: the first tailored to the smaller-than-usual brass section of the Orchestre National de Lorraine, for whom the piece was commissioned, and a slightly larger instrumentation for subsequent performances.
-Daniel Stephen Johnson