for orchestra

Written: 2002-03/04
Duration: 9'
Instrumentation: 3[1.2.pic] 3[1.2.Ehn] 3[1.2.3/bscl] 3[1.2.cbn] – 4.3.3[1.2.btbn] 1. – tmp+perc
Winner of the 2005 Louisville Orchestra Composition Competition
Partially funded by the American Music Center’s Composer Assistance Program. Minnesota Orchestra reading partially funded by Meet the Composer and the American Composer's Forum.
PremiereLouisville Orchestra39th Annual ISU Contemporary Music FestivalIndiana State University, Terre Haute, IN, May 1-3, 2004, Barry Jekowsky, conductor.
Readings: Minnesota Orchestra, Minneapolis, MN, May 1-3, 2004, Mischa Santora, conductor. American Composers Orchestra Whitaker Reading Sessions, Miller Theatre, Columbia University, May 21, 2004, Carl St. Clair, conductor.
PublisherBill Holab Music

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Program Note


In past summers I have taken long trips across America from New York to Colorado. Driving along the highways, there are endless fields, infrequently dotted with farms and farm machinery. Contrasting the farmland's somewhat natural splendor, there are thousands of miles of electric lines—ubiquitous and perhaps even unsightly, yet somehow blending in with the scenery.

What I find most dramatic about many of these electric lines—other than their gargantuan size—is the realization that day after day, a dizzying amount of information travels through them and across great distances: billions of pieces of information are packed inside these powerful cables. In Electric Lines, my goal is to take the audience on a sonic roller coaster ride: I want the audience to feel tremendous energy and power and the thrill of instantaneously sending and receiving information at light speed.

Although electric lines inspire this work, there is nothing technically "electrical" about it: there are no synthesizers or electrical instruments used, with the exception of the vibraphone. The electric qualities in many sections are highlighted by tense string trills, long, powerful melodic lines and by giving many of the players energetic, concerto-like parts. I also try to make the melodic lines sound charged and electric by enhancing them with various types of orchestral accents and by pairing different instruments using parallel or almost parallel lines at close intervals.

A few of the sections and transitions in Electric Lines are modeled after the physical characteristics of the cables and power line towers. Many of the musical lines occur in groups of two’s and three’s; some of them dip and swoop like power cables, while others are electric rod straight, but tense and electrified. There are also occasional anvil-accented "power chords" that act as markers to delineate certain sections.

Even though Electric Lines might seem to have industrial underpinnings and allusions to mechanics, I am not trying to align myself with the early twentieth century Italian Futurists: it is more the present than the past that I am thinking of in this work.