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Too close to the Sun

Flutes 1 & 2
Alto Flute
Oboes 1 & 2
English Horn
Clarinet in E flat
Clarinets in B flat 1, 2, & 3 Bass Clarinet
Bassoons 1 & 2 Contrabassoon
Soprano Sax
Alto Sax
Tenor Sax
Baritone Sax

Trumpets in B flat 1, 2, & 3

Horns 1, 2, 3, & 4

Trombones 1, 2, & 3
Bass Trombone



Percussion 1 - 5

Too close to the SunMichigan State University Wind Symphony
00:00 / 09:33

The ill-fated flight of Icarus has inspired composers, poets, artists and dancers over the centuries. Retelling this story to my son, I again became drawn into this powerful myth of Daedalus and his own son, and their attempt to escape from exile in Crete (where they were imprisoned by King Minos). As you recall, after fashioning wings of wax and feathers, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun.


Although the piece is not specifically programmatic, it contains many elements relating to the Greek myth, such as allusions to birds and the ecstasy of soaring above the clouds. The simple melody heard near the opening derives from the Seikilos epitaph, a first- century Greek composition discovered engraved on a tombstone.


The dark, menacing passacaglia theme played by the low winds represents the fearsome Minotaur (imprisoned in the Labyrinth built by Daedalus); in contrast, the upbeat, colorful passages symbolize Icarus’ delight in his new-found avian abilities. Fragments of the Minotaur’s theme recur periodically, cautioning us about the inevitable outcome – the result of a son ignoring the wise advice of his father.

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