Presage explores musical gestures, demonstrating the process by which a single musical object may unify both the macro and micro levels of a work in the projection of pitch centers, motivic and thematic materials, textures, melodic and rhythmic contours, and formal structures. The piece is based on the idea of a single seed or cell that serves as an augury or foreshadowing of that which is to follow.
The beginning of the work consists of a unison attack on the pitch A-flat, which is then sustained and passed between numerous combinations of instruments, resulting in expanding and contracting timbral densities. This opening gesture ends with a decrescendo of the A-flat in the flute, and is finally dispersed in bar 7 by diverging tuplet ricochets in the strings. As the initial gesture is restated, the expanding and contracting timbral shifts are eventually realized in the context of pitch, as A-flat, serving as the nucleus, spreads outward to F-sharp, G, and B, before returning to A-flat.
The first section of the piece formally reflects the opening gesture through expanding and contracting timbres and motives, and culminates with a dramatic augmentation of the original pitch set at bar 138. The adagio middle section of the piece is comprised of quiet, repeated reflections of the tumultuous chord expansion that ended the first section, and is facilitated by rolled chords that are initiated in the piano and echoed by the other instruments.
As the expansive nature of the first section is reinterpreted in the second section, increasing emphasis is placed upon the "tail-like" decay of the original gesture, as originally presented in measure 7. Initially appearing in bars 150-151 as glissandi in the strings and percussion, these tails eventually emerge as 32nd and 64th note passages in the woodwinds, beginning with the flute in bar 176. The final section of the piece, which begins in bar 213, transforms the original "tail motive" into fully realized scalular passages in the strings and woodwinds, thus utilizing formally the end of the opening gesture toward the conclusion of the work as a whole.