Fred Lerdahl

The Music and Writings of Composer Fred Lerdahl

Program note for Episodes and Refrains 


Episodes and Refrains (1982), for wind quintet, was commissioned by the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation for the Emmanuel Wind Quintet. It is about 13 minutes long and is in one movement, with the form subdivided into four refrains alternating with three episodes.

Refrain I is a slow, expressive melody played by the five instruments in unison. Refrains II and III successively expand and elaborate this melody into a heterophonic texture. Refrain IV is a da capo of Refrain I; the two function as a frame for the entire piece. The episodes derive in their underlying structure from the refrains. But in other respects the episodes are quite different: they are more contrapuntal, longer, faster, and with a character that is darting and explosive. They are all the same length and are variations of one another. 

The whole forms a web of cross-references with alternating contrasts. The tensions produced are not so much resolved as contained by the formal symmetries.

Fred Lerdah


all materials copyright Fred Lerdahl 2009