A Complete Wealth of Time (duration 17') (1989-90), for two pianos was composed while the composer was in France on a Fulbright Scholarship working with Gérard Grisey. The work takes shape as a set of variations on a four-note motive that appears in its clearest form just after an introduction that the composer describes as “noisy.” “The motive is a skeleton,” he writes, “devoid of any particular dress or character of its own. The four notes generate and pass through many different stylistic configurations, progressing from simple to more complex harmonic/rhythmic configurations.” Campion recounts a remarkable dream in explanation of his piano duo’s unusual title and its preoccupation with the fleshing out of motivic “skeletons”: “It was night at the famous Natural History Museum of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. I found myself in the Great Hall of Time, which displays the march of evolution by way of a fabulous parade of skeletons–with a human one heading the macabre, weirdly homogeneous assembly. I realize that Death is in the room. He wears a French policeman’s uniform and is working as the night-guard for the exhibition. Being young, and realizing that no force could possibly know more about life, I attempt to strike up a conversation. The Grim Reaper cooperated and a lengthy exchange followed. Death informed me that his role as celestial janitor is a restricted one, that organic material is only processed according to guidelines. This seemed comforting and eventually we arrived at a metaphysical question. ‘Is the life that strives in the Romantic sense against hopeless odds and personal limitations a life that has meaning, or is it, in light of Death, an absurd waste of energy–a defunct ego-centric western cultural fallacy?’ Death was coy. He lowered his head and responded in an almost inaudible voice. He might have said ‘it is a complete waste of time,’ but I heard ‘it is a complete wealth of time’.”

Selected Performance History of A Complete Wealth of Time

A Complete Wealth of Time, Cheng and Ray, March 22, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
A Complete Wealth of Time, Cheng and Ray, Monday Evening Concert Series, LA County Museum
A Complete Wealth of Time, Gloria Cheng and Vicki Ray
Green Umbrella Series, Los Angeles, December
Cornell University, February
Bucknell University, February
Weis Center for the Performing Arts, February
Syracuse University, February
A Complete Wealth of Time, New Millennium Ensemble, Columbia University, November

Edmund Campion