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Concer to
Orches tra
Composer’s Note
Imagine two extremes: striking a middle C on the piano three thousand times or programming a computer’s random number
generator to spit out unpredictable pitches and rhythms. In the first case, there is such low information content, the mind bores
easily. In the second, there is such high information content, the brain quickly fatigues. Somewhere between these two poles lies
musical expression. The job of a composer is to figure out where and how.
As useless as we might think a piece of music containing only middle C is, it nevertheless embodies a key element that
randomness does not have: structure. Without the application of some kind of architectural cohesion to sound, very little could
be communicated or understood. Yet we find ourselves living in a culture where notions of “variety” are championed. In the
political realm we want to include people of all races, ethnicities, classes, religions, genders, and sexualities. To exclude is to be
violently unjust. Artists seem to believe this all-inclusive mandate should carry over into their work as well. Let’s welcome all
styles! Let’s be eclectic! Let’s paint a picture that combines everything!
Because we live in such a diverse, multi-cultural world, it seems that all music should be celebrated; tranches of repertory
spanning centuries, covering every style and practice, are all equally valued these days. The only way a composer could hope to
claim musical “real estate” of his own is to develop a strong personal style, one that
takes up space.
I believe this can be
accomplished only by tightening the screws of architectural cohesion and tethering the musical expression to as limited of
means as possible. Once that strategy has been established, unexpected freedom, caprice, and voice can follow.
Some listeners might hear
Concerto for Orchestra
as being the same, while other listeners might hear it as being different
across its seven movement, twenty-five minute duration. Which is true? Well, empirically, the
motto used throughout
the composition is mostly invariant; however, the orchestration, moods, tempi, and phrasing are all in a constant state of flux,
where one never knows what’s going to happen next. As I see it, motivic limitation enhances listener attention, alertness, and
understanding and even generates excitement, as the piece travels through its topography.
A similar principle is at work in
Here, the clapping pattern gives us the rhythm of all the melodies heard—melodies
executed by almost every instrument in the wind ensemble. Although grounded in that basic rhythm, the notes of the unfolding
melody are constantly changing, and the chords harmonizing the melody are shifting as well. So we could say that the theme is
the rhythm and the development is the changes of melodic (and harmonic) line. We are used to thinking that themes are
melodies, which are developed through rhythmic applications. In
the opposite is true.
The other two compositions were conceived and written to serve specific purposes beyond my own.
is designed to be a
concert opener, while
is a piece written for the stage. Yet in spite of outside requirements and constraints, both pieces
still embody the principle of limitation at work in the album’s other two works, albeit in a less radical way.
the opening brass call is made up of four lengthening phraselets, which provide the complete genetic material of the
piece. Continuity is generated by interweaving truncated parts of this theme. In this way, the piece develops and plays with the
notion of “same but different.” We continue to hear portions of that initial brass call in new orchestrations, but the counterpoint
that arises from combining these strands works to surprise the ear. Remaining true to its purpose,
announces the orchestra’s presence in a dignified way and heralds the riches of repertory that follow on whatever concert
program it appears.
each of the seven movements states a thematic line in the opening bars. As with my earlier composition,
I insert new notes between the gaps of the theme and then combine the original with the new, correcting the wrong
notes as traditional counterpoint demands. Thus I create musical fabric only from what is first heard, so that the entirety of each
scene refers back to its opening bars. The usefulness of such a mono-thematic approach might seem questionable when the
purpose of a piece is to tell a story (in this case, a daughter’s sacrifice to her father for the sake of her country, inspired by
Iphigenia in Aulis).
Nevertheless, the story’s mood, character, tension, and release are all conveyed, despite the
theoretical underpinnings of the music’s construction.
— Michael Torke
Concerto for Orchestra
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko
Andrew Cornall
Recording Engineer
Philip Siney
Recording Location
Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 24 November 2014
Silas Brown, Legacy Mastering
Adjustable Music; Bill Holab Music, Modern Works Music Publishing, agents
Recording Producer
Recording Engineer
Mixing Producer
Recording Location
Associate Producers
Recording Engineer
Mixing Producer
Recording Location
Quad City Symphony Orchestra
Mark Russell Smith
Benjamin Loeb
Ken Rasek
MC Maguire
Centennial Hall, Rock Island, IL, 6 October, 2013
Silas Brown, Legacy Mastering
Adjustable Music; Bill Holab Music, Modern Works Music Publishing, agents
The University of Kansas Wind Ensemble
Paul W. Popiel
Scott Weiss
Michael Mapp, Sarah Labovitz, Luke Johnson, Ben Harper
Colin Mahoney
MC Maguire
Lied Center, University of Kansas, 7–8 October, 2013
Silas Brown, Legacy Mastering
Adjustable Music; Bill Holab Music, Modern Works Music Publishing, agents
Recording Location
Camerata NY
Richard Owen
John Kilgore
John Kilgore Sound and Recording, 10 June, 2013
Silas Brown, Legacy Mastering
Adjustable Music; Bill Holab Music, Modern Works Music Publishing, agents
Original Painting
Original Drawing
Art Direction
Copy Editor
Javier Hermida
Javier Hermida
Sooja Lee
Beth Roberts
The University of Kansas Wind Ensemble
Paul W. Popiel, conductor
Dorothy Glick
Hyunmin Choi, David Ramirez, Emily Churchwell, Theresa Rupert
English Horn:
Pete Walker
Megan Hipp,Erin Funk
Eb Clarinet:
Mickayla Chapman
Tyler Goudlock, Emily Bachert, Richard Adger, Kaitlyn Fahy, Mark Maiden, Madelyn Moore
Bass Clarinet:
Nate Kievert, James Austin
Jessica Findley, Nina Scheibe
Robert Harvey, soprano; Philip Kaul, alto; David Berrios, alto; Aaron Barrett, tenor; Chris Agnew, baritone
Ethan Bartley, Mason Tyler, Stephen Preisner, Eric Mahon, Guangyu Dong
Eric Hessel, Stephen Meiller, Alexis Rolls, Bridget Saito
Jeremy Dowden, Michael Duran, Gunyong Lee, Jonathan Daniels, Andy Newbegin, bass
Sarah Miller, Ted Oliver, Albert Miller
Jason Tacker, Cody Johnson
String Bass:
Adam Galigher
Von Hansen, Nick Spradlin, Luke Dull, Ashley Tini, Emily Strachan
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