I wrote this piece as a tone poem depicting the life cycle of a phoenix. The piece opens with the old, dying phoenix struggling to hold on to life. This struggle is represented by the opening theme first stated by the cello. The piece relaxes between increasingly dramatic statements of this line as the bird drifts in and out of consciousness, the mysterious dreams expressed by the augmented chords in the cello, and a slower, drifting variation of the opening theme in the flutes.
After the final struggle, the music dies away as the phoenix burns to ash. The music builds into a lament for the dead bird in the form a Gregorian chant. This chant dies away and the dream theme returns in the flute as the ashes are blown away revealing an egg. The excitement brews with the augmented chords starting in the alto flute and joined by the flute and cello. This breaks into trills in the flutes and pizzicato in the cello as the new, baby phoenix hatches from its egg.
The trills in the flute die down as the new, young phoenix theme is stated for the first time by the alto flute. This theme builds as the phoenix soars through the air, its youth represented by the ornaments in the flutes, the pizzicato in the cello, and the new major tonality. The content, youthful phoenix settles to the ground with the final cadence.
Ian McKnight graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in flute performance in 2012, where he started composing during his senior year. He premiered his first composition, a flute quintet, at the Seattle Flute Festival in 2013. Ian repairs musical instruments at Ted Brown Music in Tacoma, plays piccolo for the Seattle Festival Orchestra, and regularly performs with various chamber ensembles. During his free time he enjoys playing bluegrass, old time, and Celtic folk music on the mandolin and Irish flute. His love of folk music has had a continuing influence on his compositions.