In April 2016, I was fortunate to spend a few days in Desert Hot Springs, in the Coachella Valley just north of Palm Springs, California. Although I was mainly there for a concert, this desert hot springs get-away was a perfect opportunity to unwind and begin thinking about an upcoming commission from the Mélomanie ensemble for their flutist Kimberly Reighley and their cellist Douglas McNames. We had already decided on the richly sonorous duo of Alto Flute and Cello, and I was ready for that first spark of creative inspiration.
In the late afternoon on my first day there, mourning doves began cooing at sunset — sounding remarkably like alto flutes — and as I listened, a ferocious wind arose. In this tunnel-like desert valley, the falling temperature of sunset typically produces an evening windstorm, and so the piece was born.
DESERT DUSK is composed in one movement, a progression of three scenes. The music begins peacefully and beautifully, with a few hints of the mourning dove’s call. A windstorm interrupts, and gradually subsides into a gently majestic sunset.