I wrote Nostalgia Variations for the Boston-based clarinet/marimba duo Transient Canvas. I first worked with the excellent Amy Advocat in the context of my chamber opera, Giver of Light.
Nostalgia Variations engages with the tradition of theme and variation. The title refers to the emotional quality of the opening tema. “Nostalgia” is a wrought-emotion in contemporary art, bordered on one end by saccharin expression, and on the other end of the spectrum by irony and rejection of emotion. The piece is about finding a way to engage with such emotions in, as a Buddhist would say, the middle path.
The piece has eleven short variations, some more obviously based on the Tema, some less. The piece asks the question of how different can a variation be and still connect to a beginning idea?