The idea for this work has its roots in the early 1990s when I was in the eighth grade. At that time I had no idea I would become a composer, nor did I understand or enjoy poetry, but a seemingly small, insignificant school assignment created a lifelong impression on me. Our teacher Ms. Anna Campbell, gave us this poem, IF— by Rudyard Kipling, and required us to memorize and recite it for our classmates. As a person who has a tremendous difficulty memorizing words, this process was demanding for me. However, decades later, this poem still lives in my mind and is still a source of inspiration. The music industry is extremely competitive, and as a composer I receive rejections from ensembles, conductors, players, contests, and festivals on a weekly basis. That process can be very discouraging for any writer, regardless of where they are in their career. This poem encapsulates the power of positive thought and the understanding that you are in control of your outcomes. You simply cannot let rejection slow you down. I hope this work introduces people to the power of Mr. Kipling’s words. And if they are already familiar with it, this piece reconnects them.
This piece was originally written for flute choir and high voice, but it is also available for flute, piano, and high voice. The work is in three parts, although the poem is in four. The piece opens with a series of slow chords, which are interrupted by a bird-like call. This call, which later becomes the main motif of the next section looks back at the opening idea of my Bass Clarinet Concerto—a work that was rejected by many at first, but now is one of my most successful pieces. The first two stanzas of the poem are set to this idea, which shifts between simple and compound meter. The music for the third stanza moves to a darker, more retrospective idea, but is taken over by the more positive idea of the opening. Throughout the piece, the opening chords come back, reminding us that we all have to start somewhere and that even though others might reject us at first, we must keep trying!
Todd Goodman’s IF— for high voice and flute choir was commissioned by Dr. Cassandra Eisenreich and the Slippery Rock University Flute Ensemble for the 2020 Honors Ensemble.
First performance: February 23, 2020 | Slippery Rock University 2020 Honors Flute Ensemble Dr. Cassandra Eisenreich, conductor | Ben Robinson, tenor