a good diffused

Commission: written for the opening of Conrad Prebys Concert Hall at UC San Diego

May 7, 2008

6 minutes

Date: 2009

Instrumentation: soprano with flute, violin, cello, 2 percussion, 3 guitars, piano, harpsichord

PDF Score

Audio (wav. file) of premiere performance featuring soprano Susan Narucki and conductor Steven Schick

Program Note (by Daniel Tacke):

In A Good Diffused, Rand Steiger has set an excerpt from “Oh May I Join the Choir Invisible!” by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans); the work’s title comes from the line of poetry that reads “Be the sweet presence of a good diffus’d.” In the study of acoustics, diffusion refers to an even distribution of sound throughout a space – made possible by careful use of reflective and absorptive surfaces within. While in other contexts diffusion leads to dilution, here the opposite is true, echoed by Eliot in the continuation of her poem, “And in diffusion ever more intense!”

It is not uncommon for the close relationship between music and physical space to play an integral role in expressing and perceiving a musical voice; in fact it is especially necessary to the delicate qualities of song. Steiger’s work presents a very intimate musical situation for instruments that are predominantly quiet and a solo soprano, but the “sweet presence” of this sound is not meant to remain at such a level. Even as the work’s creation was inspired by the metaphor of diffusion, its realization is powered by the diffusive properties of this concert space, so supportive to sound that the expressive qualities of the work are made “ever more intense” in their passage from the stage to the ears of each and every listener.

Steiger has written the following dedication in his score: “This piece was composed for the opening of the Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, and is dedicated to acoustician Dr. Cyril Harris and architect Mark Reddington, with deep gratitude for the extraordinary space they created.”