A Whirling and a Wandering Fire (1986) by Eric Moe
for flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, and piano
World premiere

I found the title for my piece in The Madness of King Goll, a charming early poem of W.B. Yeats. The phrase appears as a metaphor for the legendary king's madness:

but slowly...
In my most secret spirit grew
A whirling and a wandering fire.

The only power capable of comforting the king in his delirium is music:

It quenched, with sound like falling dew
The whirling and the wandering fire.

The listener who enjoys programmatic associations will probably be able to find a wealth of such, though the dramatic structure of the composition is self-generated (and, I trust, self-explanatory). I offer one other favorite phrase as a take-it-or-leave-it description of the musical climax:

of some inhuman misery
our married voices wildy trolled.

A Whirling and a Wandering Fire was written for my friends and (then) fellow performers Janet Kutulas and Peter Josheff. Its first performance took place in March 1986 as part of Earplay’s first season.

— E. M.    

[from program for November 9, 2004 concert]