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The title for Zaira comes from the novel Le città invisibili by Italo Calvino. The concepts of chaos, disorder, and order all play an important role in the work. Also prevalent is the extensive use of percussion instruments (or instruments played percussively), and the use of melodic fragments from the Gregorian Chant honoring St. Augustine. Zaira was written in the spring of 1992, and is dedicated to my wife, Maria.

During its 10 minute duration, the work makes use of rapid shifts in texture and tempo. The focus shifts from one instrument to another, and from one mood to the next. While the relationship between each section may seem random or choatic, they are all different views of the same basic material. Most of the work is based on the violin solo which begins about 40 seconds into the piece; through successive transformations, the lines from the solo become the chordal structures which make up the (mostly) homophonic passage that begins around two-thirds of the way into the piece. The basic material is changed to cover wider or narrower ranges, stretched across time, or compressed into rapid bursts of energy; some times, this material gets translated to the realm of microtones, long glissandi, and non-pitched instruments. As a result of this, the piece forms a tight network of inter-related ideas, some of them presented at a rapid pace, some of them returning later in the piece, but most of them spiralling outwards as the work develops. Some of these ideas are developed by a large number of interacting processes, while others are the result of randomness or turbulence. In this way, the work reflects current theories of chaotic systems and their behavior.