Greyed Rainbow
Dana Kaufman (ASCAP)
Commissioned by the Lowell Chamber Orchestra
Arrangement Commissioned by the Manchester Symphony Orchestra

Program Notes:

When Maestro Orlando Cela commissioned me to compose a piece for the Lowell Chamber Orchestra, he asked that I write a work in response to the concert theme, “Antique Modernity.”

I considered the concept of “Antique Modernity” in the context of the past two years of the COVID pandemic: what do we now consider “antique,” and what do we now consider “modern?” What is old, and what is new? I thought of a communal melancholy, a sense of optimism, and a continued surrealness in our daily lives. On a visit in 2021 to the Art Institute of Chicago (in my hometown), I saw what I thought to be a fitting exploration of this “old and new” reflected in Jackson Pollock’s Greyed Rainbow. A picture of the painting is below.

Jackson Pollock’s Abstract Expressionist work, which bridges traditional and contemporary 20th-century aesthetics in visual art, has always resonated with me. One of the painting’s elements that I find particularly striking is its use of palettes that may initially appear to conflict with one another. Approximately two thirds of the painting is starkly monochromatic, while the bottom third of the painting incorporates hints of several colors. Pollock’s work connects bleakness and solace.

I see the passage of time during the COVID pandemic as the kind of paradoxical rainbow that captivated Pollock’s imagination — it is old, new, colorless, colorful, grim, and hopeful. Greyed Rainbow for chamber orchestra strives to capture a study of Pollock’s painting through the lens of a global pandemic: to me, this co-existence of dark and light is what “Antique Modernity” means today.

– Dana Kaufman