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The title of the piece is a mythological description of the unseen forces of coincidence, fortune, timing, and circumstance that push our lives in different directions every day. Because of the wind that turns the world, almost every moment alters our path in some way. There are more of these events than we can comprehend, but this piece is inspired by one in particular. In the countless moments that have shaped my life, one undeniably led to so much good fortune that I still can’t believe my luck.
During my senior year of college, I drove from the University of Alabama to New Orleans to attend PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention). While filling out the registration form, a distant marimba caught my attention. I put on my badge, headed toward the sound of rosewood, quietly snuck into the back of the hall, and heard the last thirty minutes of Michael Burritt’s concert. Before that moment, I had no idea who Michael Burritt was. I definitely had no idea that those thirty minutes would lead to a path that changed everything.
The next fall I was in Ohio, studying with Michael Burritt at Kent State University. Those were two of the most important years of my life. Mike helped me improve my technical abilities as a percussionist but, more importantly, Mike pushed me to become a more expressive performer and to find my own voice as musician. He set an example as a teacher and mentor that I still try to live up to. I should also mention that, because I went to Ohio to study with Mike, another life-changing path appeared. It was in the hallway outside Mike's office where I first met Halim El-Dabh, whose teaching, music, and friendship have become such an important part of my life.
All these years later, Mike’s influence is with me everyday, and all these years later, I am still amazed that so much of my professional success stems from that one November day in 1992. If I had left Tuscaloosa half an hour later, been briefly stuck in traffic, or gotten lost, or just stopped for a quick bite to eat before I headed into the convention, I would have missed those thirty minutes that changed my life.
"The Wind That Turns the World" was commissioned by a consortium of my former students led by Joshua Knight. My inspiration for the piece was finding a way to say thank you to my teacher, Michael Burritt, because without his influence and inspiration I wouldn’t know any of the wonderful students I’ve had the honor to teach over the past two decades. I’m lucky the wind was blowing the right direction back in 1992.
Scored for solo marimba with percussion quartet, The Wind That Turns the World is a “windblown theme and variations.” The theme is built (using a few tricks) on the letters of Michael Burritt’s first name and last initial. M = em = e minor (i) C H = A E L = La = A B
To my students, thank you for asking me to write this piece. I am lucky to have all of you as a part of my life. And to Mike, thank you for everything.
Josh Knight in dress rehearsal with the University of Central Arkansas Graduate Percussion Quartet. This was taken just before the world premiere at the UCA Percussion Festival in March of 2016.