Abracadabra was composed in the summer of 2004, and was orchestrated the following November during a residency at the MacDowell Colony. The piece is dedicated to my son, and is at once playful and serious, innocent and mischievous. A sense of mystery pervades as the dark key of G minor is balanced by sudden shifts to bright and sunny major keys. Throughout the composition I was thinking about magic, not in an evil or frightening sense, but as a source of fun and fantasy. My wonderfully playful, sometimes mischievous young son was always in the back of mind, as were images of Halloween with its costumes and jack-o’-lanterns. As the piece nears its conclusion, the music rushes toward what seems to be an explosive finish. But the woodwinds interrupt, fanning out to a questioning whole-tone cluster. They are answered by a puff of sound, a final disappearing act.
In strictly musical terms, the piece is as clear an example of musical economy as anything I’ve composed. Almost everything is derived from the opening bars of the main theme. Indeed, virtually every note can be traced to the main melody or its accompaniment. Because of this heightened sense of unity, I had to choose other ways to achieve musical variety. The most important solution was through the sudden and frequent shifts of mood, mode, and tonality.