A Flash of Green (1987)

for orchestra

A Flash of Green was written especially for the Princeton University Orchestra. The title refers to an optical phenomenon that occurs at sunset off the coast of Florida. The slow opening of the piece is a drawn-out anticipation of this burst of green across the orange sky. At the moment of the flash, the music freezes the event and explores its many facets in a series of rapidly shifting textures.

Though I worked with this image in mind, I also like the metaphor suggested by a member of the orchestra. She imagined a painter who quickly applies a broad stroke of thick green paint to the canvas. At first the stripe is calm. Gradually the excess paint begins to drip and form beads. Rivulets of green suddenly break away and, in a swirl of activity, blend with other colors on the canvas, creating many contrasting patches.

If these images help you follow the piece for the first time, they’ve done all I expect of them. Ultimately, the music must speak to us on its own terms.


  • Princeton University Orchestra, Michael Pratt, conductor; Princeton, 4/24 and 4/25/1987