On Saturday, May 4, the Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble premieres a composition by Dartmouth senior Adam Rinehouse. Two Meditations: Elegy for Wind Ensemble is a substantial, 23-minute, three-movement work that also serves as the senior thesis project for Adam, who is a double major in music and computer science and percussion section leader in the wind ensemble. In this essay for the concert’s program notes, Adam writes about the three people who inspired this composition.
Two Meditations: Elegy for Wind Ensemble was written for my senior honors thesis in the music major. It is the first large-scale, long-form work I’ve undertaken. Written as a response to events that occurred throughout my time at Dartmouth and with the Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble (DCWE) specifically, it is a piece that serves as both a funerary lament and a dare to press onward. It honors two outstanding individuals—Scott Smedinghoff and David Maslanka—whose lives have become intertwined with the DCWE over the past four years.
The story began my first year at Dartmouth, in the winter of 2016. The DCWE, under the directorship of Matthew Marsit, was undertaking an immensely difficult program composed entirely of works by the composer David Maslanka: the “Morning Star” overture, Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble, and Symphony No. 8. In addition to a full wind ensemble, all three pieces required the skill of a brilliant pianist, and there was no better musician to fill the role than Scott Smedinghoff, a graduate student in the department of mathematics. Tragically, Scott passed away before the concert. The ensemble was thrown into mourning, and ultimately the decision was made to replace “Morning Star” with another of Maslanka’s pieces: In Memoriam. Just a few weeks later, David Maslanka himself came to work with the ensemble. He was aware of Scott’s passing and was ever more motivated to push the DCWE to its utmost limits of emotion. David was present for the concert, and he was so moved by the ensemble’s performance of In Memoriam that he offered to compose a new commission, For Scott, dedicated to Scott’s memory.
A year and a half passed, and I was in my sophomore summer term. A friend messaged me with some sobering news: David Maslanka had passed away after succumbing to a struggle with cancer. I was stunned; among the many thoughts that came forward, a particularly heavy one was the knowledge that For Scott had never even been begun. The last of David’s music that would ever be written was already penned, and Scott’s memory would not be honored by David’s brilliant composition. I was not sure what response I could offer or how to cope, so I turned to music. Two Meditations began as a wind quintet, and it evolved into a single long-form movement for fully scored wind ensemble during the spring of 2018, which I spent abroad studying music in Vienna. Upon returning for my senior year, I set out to finalize the first movement and, sensing there was more to say, began work on a second. The work in its final form is broken into these two movements, each about 12 minutes in length.
The work was meant to be written in David Maslanka’s style, and was motivated specifically by his short symphony, Give Us This Day, the first of his pieces I’d ever played. Masla
nka based many of his works on chorale settings by J.S. Bach, and I sought to take the same approach. Two Meditations is based on Bach’s setting of “Komm süsser Tod” (lit. “Come sweet death”), the full text of which is a solemn meditation on the peaceful finality of the afterlife:
Komm süsser Tod, komm selge Ruh! Komm führe mich in Friede.
Come sweet death, come blesséd rest. Come lead me to my peace.
The original harmonization appears in its entirety in the second movement, and the main motif, which appears throughout the work, is taken directly from the first four notes of the soprano line of the chorale. The main theme of the second movement is adapted from the melody in the final section of the chorale. Much of the orchestration was inspired by specific sections of “Give Us This Day.”
For his devoted mentorship and unparalleled dedication as a close friend and confidante, I am honored to dedicate Two Meditations to Matthew Marsit. Matt has played a role in my life that is perhaps more impactful than he even knows. He first inspired me as my conductor at the summer music camp I attended in high school. He drew my attention to Dartmouth College and convinced me rightfully that I would thrive there. He suggested I join Dartmouth’s DALI Lab, where I have since become a core team member and have fallen in love with my second major—computer science—which I’ll be pursuing after graduation. Matt has familiarized me with the depth and breadth of the wind ensemble literature, pushed me to grow as both a musician and person, helped me celebrate highs and counsel me through lows, and all along has been nothing short of a great friend. It is with great pleasure that I dedicate my Opus One to this outstanding educator.