Altitude Adjustment examines the juxtaposition of our terror of extreme turbulence during flight and the majestic tranquility of soaring through the skies. The work was specifically written for the NorthWinds Symphonic Band concert themed “…by Virtue of the Skies”. From the opening statement by the solo saxophone until midway through the piece we are reminded about the instability of uncontrolled flight. Just about every other bar of music is in a different time signature which gives the listener a sense of uncertainty. There is a brief statement of the more tranquil “soaring” theme by the piano but it is swiftly interrupted by the return of the unstable music and time changes.
During the midpoint of the piece, we adjust our altitude and are allowed to recover. The music is still “unstable” with constant meter changes but it is now slow, somber and reflective. The piece moves forward with numerous modulations and harmonic progressions but never fully resolves. The dichotomy of the work is further emphasized with the merging of a B Major/B-flat minor chord during the final cadence of the slow section.
After the unresolved polyphonic cadence, we return with the alto saxophone’s opening frantic statement of the “turbulence” theme. The music is the same as the beginning but scored slightly different with added woodwinds and brass. As this section builds the piano eventually returns with the “soaring” theme and the meter remains in a consistent 3/4 time. Stability has been reached and we are allowed to return to equilibrium. Alas, this moment too doesn’t last and the music ends with a raucous coda that concludes with an open fifth chord. Ambiguously designed to be neither Major nor Minor.
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Recorded by the Kansas City Northwinds Symphonic Band