The Builder

for Wind Ensemble

The Builder gets its name from a poem by Pablo Neruda called "El Constructor" in the Spanish. It is a surreal description of the creative process, and describes the formation of an idea. Neruda launches his poem with an initial act of creation: "I chose my own illusion / from frozen salt, I made its likeness."

A simple rhythm in the woodwinds humbly opens the piece. This 'building' motive gradually intensifies and a lyrical trumpet solo emerges with the beginnings of a melody. The infant melody is molded by hammer swings from the percussion and the woodwinds' constant chiseling. In the poem, the builder's creation is a ship, and Neruda describes the thrill and sense of possibility that a new idea brings: "I saw the beginnings of the ship, / I touched it, smooth as the sacred fish- / it quivered like the harp of heaven."

One of the mysterious of the creative process is that, along the way, often the initial vision gets lost. By the time a piece is finished, it has become something else. In The Builder, the melody becomes more and more fragmented and ultimately disappears as the piece nears its end. Neruda's ship mysteriously vanishes over the horizon. All that remains is the initial building motive laid bare, and for Neruda, it is "back to the wood / with an ax naked as a star." The building rhythm soon reaches a fever pitch and is funneled into one final hammer swing, with the whole ensemble in unison.



  • Mercer Island High School Wind Ensemble; (Parker Bixby, Conductor)