for orchestra

Written: 2011
Duration: 14'
Instrumentation: – – tmp – str
Commissioned by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Jaime Laredo, conductor.
World Premiere: Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Made in Vermont Tour (Five Performances), Jaime Laredo, conductor, September-October, 2011.
Additional Performances: Austin Symphony, Atlantic Music Festival Orchestra, Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Chappaqua Orchesta, Delaware Symphony Orchestra, American Modern Orchestra
PublisherBill Holab Music

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Vermont is famous for its green mountains, but I often find myself taking long drives through the mountains on overcast days or even at night, when the mountains lose color and become gray silhouettes. Many roads in Vermont are so dark, particularly in the Northeast Kingdom, that you need to use headlights, even during the day. Dark Mountains is meant to portray the beauty and grandeur of the mountains and the peacefulness of the open roads, but also the darkness and occasional treacherous passes one may encounter during the evening hours. The piece is in three connected sections. The first section portrays the calmness and austerity of a quiet evening. The second is inspired by a fast drive down winding country roads, with twists and turns, frequent tempo changes and shifting gears. The final section evokes the feeling of looking at the nighttime sky with moonlight shining through the trees and the sounds of nature in the distance.

This piece is commissioned by and dedicated to the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and Jaime Laredo, and was originally written for the Made in Vermont Music Festival.


It’s early in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s season, but I am going to make a prediction. I think that in June, when we look back and take stock of the year, this weekend’s concert will emerge as one of the highlights... a very lovely creation of Buffalo native Robert Paterson, called “Dark Mountains... Robert Paterson’s “Dark Mountains,” beginning the concert, was commissioned by the Vermont Symphony and is meant to invoke the experience of driving through the Vermont mountains. Lucky me, it happened that the friend who joined me for the concert had just returned from a Vermont road trip. She said Paterson accurately captured the ambiance. And that ambiance was beautiful. Paterson is uncommonly talented. He is also humorous and self-deprecating. “You don’t have to know anything about this music. You don’t need a degree,” he told us before the performance. He was right. The music reaches out to you. It was serene, reflective and gently colorful. It had a distinctively American sound. Sometimes, with its skilled use of woodwinds, it could remind you of Aaron Copland. But it’s best not to overthink it, simply to enjoy it. I was wishing it did not have to end when it did. I would have happily heard more.
— Mary Kunz Goldman, Buffalo News
Commissioned by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Dark Mountains takes inspiration from the terrain and the shifting atmospheres it creates… Jagged rhythms with shifting meters and slashing dissonances make for a most intriguing and eclectic work.
— Christine Facciolo, Delaware Arts Info
Talk about putting a scene right in front of your ears, you didn’t have to work very hard to get the feeling of being in the mountains, right down to the quiet as a woodland owl ending.
— Peter Hall, Buffalo Rising
...it was easy to see the appeal of Paterson’s work “Dark Mountains.” It’s a piece that builds tension, takes mysterious turns into the kind of suspenseful motifs that would be very much at home inside a British mystery series... The work was inspired by drives through the landscapes of Vermont, and the result has plenty of lyrical passages... Slices of dissonance added interest to this eclectic and successful work.
— Luke Quinton, Austin American-Statesman
The work is richly crafted, tonal but with knotty contemporary harmonic language and rhythms, proved largely pastoral, including reflections on the craggy Vermont mountainside. The VSO exudes a sense of joy - smiles included - when it performs under Laredo, and this time was no exception.
— Jim Lowe, Times Argus