‘Exodus’ for solo organ was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment of Brigham Young University as part of the 2002 Barlow Prize in Composition. Later in 2014, it was completely revised and rewritten, the second and third movements scrapped and replaced with a new movement. That version was premiered by Randall Harlow at Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago. ‘Exodus’ was meant to push the organ (and the organist) to its limits. It looks back to the past, not to elevate it, but in order to dismantle it, to seek a new way forward.
The piece is in 4 movements. ‘Kyrie’ is a variation set based on a long, twisting melody that itself is a set of variations on its opening notes. Each subsequent variation further distorts the melody until it is nearly unrecognizable. ‘Wedge’ takes the Bach wedge fugue (in e minor) and stomps it to pieces, pushing the wedge idea beyond the pitch and into rhythm, density, structure. The primary inspiration for the movement, interestingly enough, came from the Japanese noise band Melt Banana. ‘Agnus Dei’ takes the opening notes of the ‘Kyrie’ and transforms them into a more metric motive interspersed with a long, drawn-out melody, like a thread. It is perhaps the most traditional-sounding of all the movements. ‘Swann’s Way’ (originally dedicated to Fred Swann), is a raucous, rhapsodic storm of chords, arpeggios, and swirling figures, completely unsettled to its very end.
A recording of ‘Exodus’ can be found on the album Organon Novus from Innova Records.
Barlow Endowment, Brigham Young University