DAUGHERTY: Philadelphia Stories / UFO
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MICHAEL DAUGHERTY (b. 1954)
Philadelphia Stories for Orchestra UFO for Solo Percussion and Orchestra
Philadelphia Stories (2001) for orchestra wascommissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra. The worldpremi?¿re was given by the Philadelphia Orchestra underthe direction of David Zinman at the Academy of Musicin Philadelphia on 15th November 2001. A musicaltravelogue of the sounds and rhythms of Philadelphia,my third symphony is divided into three movements:the first movement begins at sundown, the secondmovement after midnight, and the third movement atsunrise. In Sundown On South Street, I recreate thegroove of people cruising down one of the most popularstreets of Philadelphia, where one finds nightclubs andmusicians from all walks of life. The many generationsof musicians who lived in Philadelphia and walkeddown this musical street include Sun Ra, John Coltrane,Fabian, Mario Lanza, and Patti LaBelle. In the 1980s Itoo was a frequent visitor to South Street, playing jazzpiano and performing experimental electronic music invarious nightclubs. Not only is Philadelphia said to beone of America's most haunted cities but it is alsowhere Edgar Allan Poe penned The Tell-Tale Heart,one of his most famous tales of horror. In his lyricpoetry Poe also often invoked the lute and the lyre. Tell-Tale Harp is an arabesque for two solo harps andorchestra. Arranged stereophonically on the stage, thesolo harpists play obsessive rhythms, rolling chords,and ghostly echoes in a periodic heart-like pulse. Toquote Poe himself, we hear \spirits moving musically,to a lute's well-tuned law". In Bells for Stokowski Iimagine Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977), one of themost influential and controversial conductors/arrangersof the twentieth century, visiting the Liberty Bell inPhiladelphia at sunrise and listening to all the bells ofthe city resonate. As maestro of the PhiladelphiaOrchestra (1912-36) he created a sensation byconducting world premi?¿res of orchestral works bycomposers such as Stravinsky and Var?¿se, and enragedclassical purists by conducting his lavish Romanticorchestral transcriptions of J.S. Bach. In my rousingtribute to Stokowski, I have composed an originaltheme in the style of Bach that is modulated through aseries of canonic tonal and atonal variations in my ownmusical language. Later I also introduce my owntranscription of Bach's C major Prelude from The Well-Tempered Klavier. In the coda I evoke the famous overthe-top "Stokowski sound," by making the orchestraresound like an enormous, rumbling gothic organ.
UFO (1999) for solo percussion and orchestra isinspired by unidentified flying objects and sounds. Theconcerto was commissioned by the National SymphonyOrchestra through a grant from the John and JuneHechinger Commissioning Fund and written for EvelynGlennie. The world premi?¿re was performed by EvelynGlennie, solo percussion, and the National SymphonyOrchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin, at theKennedy Center, Washington D.C. on 10th April 1999.
The concerto begins with Traveling Music where thepercussion soloist, in the guise of an alien from outerspace, mysteriously enters the concert hall playing awaterphone and mechanical siren. The secondmovement, Unidentified, refers to the famous UFOcrash in 1947 near Roswell, New Mexico. Large scrapsof unidentifiable metal were discovered in the desertand quickly moved by the U.S. military to Area 51 inNevada, where its secret base was reputed to be therepository for alien objects. What happened to thosescattered scraps? They resonate on the concert stage, asthe percussion soloist plays on xylophone and eightpieces of unidentified metal. In Flying, the thirdmovement, we hear a virtuoso performance by the solopercussionist on vibraphone, mark tree, and cymbalsthat hover and shimmer in the air like flying saucers. Inthe fourth movement, the percussion soloist performssleight-of-hand improvisations with strange soundingpercussion instruments accompanied by acontrabassoon soloist and the percussion section, whichis located in the balcony. This movement, entitled ???,may leave the listener wondering: is this another UFOsighting? Pulsating with rhythms in 5/4 time, the finalmovement is entitled Objects. It features virtuosicdrumming by the percussion soloist at warp speed tosuggest the outer trappings and inner machinery of afine-tuned alien aircraft.Michael Daugherty