Departures – Explaining This Symphonic Poem For Wind Ensemble

For the GDYO (Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra) Wind Symphony.


Departures for Winds and Percussion is a symphonic (tone) poem – a piece of music in a single continuous section in which the content of a poem, a story or novel, a painting, a landscape or another non-musical source is illustrated or evoked. For me, poetry is a very efficient art form. As the reader uncovers the layers, a single word can bring to life a multitude of images and emotions. Departures is a “rite of passage” piece – a musical allegory of leaving the nest (the world that has been created for you) to start your own life (the world as you make it).


The piece consists of five sections – mirroring the stanzas below.

My Home, The Nest –
The Best Of All Possible Worlds**­
Contemplative And Introspective –
I Perch.

Above Me, A Bird In Flight
Effortless And Free –
Singing Like Whales Cry

Engulfed In Fear
Brutish And Paralyzing –
I Rise.

Now, On The Dawn Of My Great Departure
I Take Flight –
Crying Like Whales Sing

And With Free Will –
I Reflect.


With poetry, reading is believing. If one believes that everything written and implied was done so on purpose, then the reader becomes engaged in finding little clues to big meanings. This is why I appreciate poetry – it’s efficient and without boundaries. To give an example:


My Home, The Nest –

The Best Of All Possible Worlds**­

Contemplative And Introspective –

I Perch.


The first layer of details: The bird-like scenario of the nest being the home and the act of perching. Of all the places to be, it is the best. “The Best Of All Possible Worlds­” is italicized. “Nest” and “Best” rhyme. It’s in first person/bird. That person/bird is engaged in deep thinking and soul searching.


Now investigate a little further. Take a look at the second line. **German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz coined the phrase, “The best of all possible worlds.” It summarizes the idea that of all the possible worlds God could have made, this one is the best. Thus, even as glorious and good as it is, our world is predetermined – no free will. Voltaire – a French philosopher during the Age of Enlightenment – wrote a novella satirizing Leibniz and his “best of all possible worlds” philosophy; the novella is entitled Candide.


This is important because “The Nest” is a symbol of our pre-determined lives – the lives we were born into – where our choices have been made for us.  Just as Leibniz thought the world was predetermined by his almighty maker, so is the world you were born into by your maker – “The Best Of All Possible Worlds.” This is what the protagonist of the poem is being “Contemplative And Introspective” about as it perches – the time of it’s “Great Departure” (which is also italicized) draws near.


In order to truly convince the reader of this purposeful detail, I orchestrated the beginning of Departures to sound similar to Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide – a musical quote to reference a written philosophy. Celebratory in sound, the introduction fades away to reveal the true feelings of the protagonist of the poem. The written poem and composed music are now merged in meaning – the symphonic poem. The rest I leave to the reader/listener to see and to hear.