Fred Lerdahl

The Music and Writings of Composer Fred Lerdahl

Program note for Cross-Currents


Cross-Currents was composed in 1987 with the support of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. The instrumentation consists of triple woodwinds, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, percussion, piano, harp, and strings. The piece is in one movement lasting about 12 minutes. It received its premiere in 1989 by the Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz conducting.

Cross-Currents evolves in interlocking, constrasting sections. Each section grows by a process of expanding variations, starting with a simple event and progressively elaborating into a complexity that exhausts itself as other material begins. Imposed on this ongoing process is a symmetrical overall form: the opening brass fanfare returns at the midpoint in a majestic chorale passage for full orchestra and again more literally at the end. Between these pillars lies varied material of increasing urgency, compressing and overlapping more and more, as the music strives toward climactic completion. The title refers not only to this process but also to the materials themselves, which often evoke different kinds of music. Stylistic currents clash and mix, without the obviousness of quotation, and lend the music an expressive range beyond its formal precision. 

Fred Lerdahl


all materials copyright Fred Lerdahl 2009