Immediately forceful and sinister, this is music that might emanate from a witch’s cauldron or some primordial ooze. The contrabassoon slithers through the scene, mocked by brass fanfares, accompanied by timpani hits, and interrupted by violent guiro scratches. A faster tempo ensues; the woodwinds and mallet percussion announce scalar flourishes followed by an angular theme presented by the contrabassoon. Nimble music in the woodwinds, marked by sprightly accents and dramatic changes of color, concludes this section.
The middle section of the piece now begins with a murky background and a plaintive statement from the orchestral bells and vibraphone. Marked Ethereal, this section features a rhythmic motive that develops into a distant ostinato. The simple “bell” statement matures into a melody that gradually grows powerful and triumphant. The music then settles and the menacing music from the beginning returns, what was once sinister, now takes on a rhapsodic and mildly optimistic nature. All of the earlier themes are now cast in different guises and pitted against each other.
The cauldron is stirred, the ooze flows, and the contrabassoon, now alone, simmers. As the piece comes to a close the instruments return one by one to join each other in one final, primal scream.