for flute, viola and harp

Written: 1999
Duration: 10'
Instrumentation: flute (doubling alto flute), viola and harp
Commissioned by the Cornell Council for the Arts
Premiere: Robert Vroegindewey, flute; Jethro Marks, viola; Ann Yeung, harp; Cornell University, Barnes Hall, Ithaca, NY, April 2, 2000.
Selected Additional PerformancesAmerican Modern Ensemble, Deciduous Trio, Locrian Chamber Players, Naiades Ensemble, New York Harp Trio, Trio St. Germain, Trio Sirens
PublisherBill Holab Music

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My original inspiration for Embracing the Wind was the image of an Olympic athlete running against the wind. The process of writing this work eventually shifted me to more abstract thoughts, such as the concept of creating music that sounds flexible and has wind-like, ebb-and-flow qualities. I try to achieve this by creating musical zephyrs from repeated motives and smooth phrases that utilize gradual dynamic swells and subtle tempo fluctuations. In this sense, Embracing the Wind is perhaps more minimal and Romantic than many of my other pieces: minimal in that cells that are repeated over and over again as textural background, Romantic in that the form is intentionally less severe and also has a narrative, structural quality.

Robert Patersom’s Embracing the Wind for flute, harp and viola was good enough, and rarely heard enough, to justify the group’s decision to relax its policy (and, perhaps, to make you wonder whether there really is much point to the decade rule)... At the beginning of Mr. Paterson’s work, each instrument inhabits its own distinct sound world: the harp produces rolling arpeggios; the flute plays graceful, slightly exotic melodies; and the viola offers brusque, combative counterpoint. But Mr. Paterson gradually alters each line, having each take on characteristics of the others at first, eventually softening the edges to create a tightly knit... dreamlike wash.
— Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, "When An Oldie is Only 11 Years Old", performance by the Locrian Chamber Players
Next was the European Premiere of Robert Paterson’s Embracing the Wind, an altogether more convincing work by a New York based composer... Inspired by an Olympic athlete running against the wind, the piece is an abstraction of that image, and is described as minimalist romantic, making use of repeated cells and musical fragments in an expressive way. The piece had a dramatic opening, and was performed with precise, even technical control from all of the players. An extended viola solo was played with energy and conviction, and the composer made excellent use of the rich sonorities of the alto flute to good effect... this work presented opportunities for all of the players to shine, with some impressive harp playing matched by a wonderful bisbigliando effect in the flute, which was played with absolute precision.
— Carla Rees, MusicWeb International, review of the European Premiere by the London-based Naiades Ensemble
Comment on the Australian Premiere by the New York City-based New York Harp Trio:

We were hopeful that Australian audiences would be receptive of a modern program” said Peter Bucknell, violist. “Rob Paterson’s piece Embracing the Wind was a huge hit... The crowds were extremely attentive in Melbourne. We found a real depth there.
— The New York Toimes