for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Percussion and Piano

Written: 2004
Duration: 8'
Instrumentation: flute (doubling piccolo, alto flute and medium finger cymbals), B-flat clarinet (doubling E-flat clarinet, B-flat bass clarinet and large finger cymbals), violin (doubling small finger cymbals), violoncello, percussion (vibraphone, orchestra bells, crotales [high set and low set]), piano.
For The California E.A.R. Unit
PremiereThe California E.A.R. UnitArcosanti, Mayer, AZ, August 14, 2004.
PublisherBill Holab Music

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Program Note

I came up with the title The Thin Ice of Your Fragile Mind before I began writing the piece. I soon realized that the work would be far more abstract than the title itself implies. I often come up with titles before I begin writing, but this one could have easily been added after I finished. In some ways, it describes the nature of the piece: there are sections that sound icy, cold and fragile, and even moments that sound like plunging into the dark depths of a black lake.

I also knew this work would be premiered at Arcosanti, a prototype "arcology" (a word meaning architecture coherent with ecology) in the Arizona desert designed by architect Paolo Soleri. Since I could not stop thinking about the wonderful windbells made there, I chose percussive sounds that are entirely metallic: a vibraphone, crotales, orchestra bells and finger cymbals. This works perfectly for two reasons: metal percussion instruments can sound icy and cold, and the percussionist in E.A.R. Unit, the group premiering the work, was limited to bringing instruments that would not be adversely affected by the intense summer heat. While composing the piece, the irony never escaped me that a work inspired by ice and cold would be premiered in a sweltering desert.

Press Quotes

Many listeners commented on Robert Paterson’s The Thin Ice of Your Fragile Mind... sweet ensemble phrasing, punctuated by percussive sounds, most notably some earthy bells. The latter were inspired by Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri’s pioneering desert complex… in its icy way, Paterson’s piece espoused a serenity that might have paralleled the architect’s ideals.
— Bruce Hodges, MusicWeb International
From the NYC premiere by the American Modern Ensemble... Rob, your piece is such a polished jewel! Beautiful sonorities, impeccable pacing, compelling arches... Congrats!!
— Melinda Wagner, Composer, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music
I was very impressed with your Thin Ice… your characteristic orchestration and special use of percussion really rings true in this piece: it glimmers and shines. Really beautiful.
— Chester Biscardi, Composer, Chair, Sarah Lawrence College Music Program
The concert was great, with special thrills from Rob Paterson’s achingly strange and beautiful The Thin Ice of Your Fragile Mind, which was, to use a rather technical musicological term, tinkly and outer-spacey (lots of metallic percussion and upper register woodwind/piano).
— Dave Cote, Critic, TimeOut New York
I especially enjoyed [The Thin Ice of Your Fragile Mind], Rob! Riveting...
— Joseph Pehrson Composer and Co-Founder of the NYC-based Composers Concordance