Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Miraculous Music, Part 2: Michael Torke's Javelin

Five days after the Invasion of the Dreaded Polar Vortex comes the January Thaw – below zero on Tuesday, possibly near 50° on Saturday – and with it, this weekend's Masterworks Concert, “Miraculous Music.”

The program this Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm includes one of the great 19th Century Piano Concertos, another of those dramatic early-20th Century ballets, and opens with a delightfully celebratory work by an American composer intended to reflect the Atlanta Olympics of 1996.

Music stuck in his head
As we get ready to watch the Winter Olympics in Sochi in a few weeks, it's nice to hear a piece of music that owes its existence to some previous Olympic games. After all, we don't often mix the idea of sports in this country with classical music, do we?

The Atlanta Symphony was celebrating its 50th Anniversary at the same time, so they commissioned Michael Torke, then in his early-30s (see a more recent photo, right), asking him to write something for them that would reflect both. The piece, entitled “Javelin,” has a propulsive drive appropriate for an athletic event and a great tune that keeps on spinning, up-lifting the spirit – exhilarating, as one critic wrote the year “Javelin” was premiered: Torke writes “some of the most optimistic, joyful and thoroughly uplifting music to appear in recent years.”

It's always tough finding a good performance with a good recording of a piece of music on You-Tube and though this performance may not be as exhilarating as some I've heard (as much for the recording), it's the best one I can find for orchestra. In this case, it's the Texas Medical Center Orchestra made up of doctors, scientists, dentists, nurses, and med students from the Houston area.

= = = = =

= = = = =

A blogger in Columbus, OH, just posted this interview with Michael Torke on her blog yesterday, so I'll include the link here for you to read the whole thing.

When she asks him “What do you hope is gained from your music,” he says,

= = = = =
I hope that they gain what art is supposed to do. Why do we have art? It fills our souls, lifts us up. It’s this amazing, transformative thing that can do good for people. When I listen to Bach, my brain cells regroup. I feel this peace and well-being. Isn’t it amazing that art can do that? I hope I can write something that’s transformative to others.

...One of the great things about art is that it’s supposed to last over time. Dickens is still read today. There are probably a lot of authors though from his time that we’ve since forgotten about. My goal is to write music that’s still interesting and listened to when I’m dead and gone. I got a lot of attention in my 20s, 30s, so what now in my 50s? I’m grateful that orchestras still play my music. There’s something that maybe transcends the immediate time and if that’s true, then I’ve accomplished my goal.
= = = = =

Growing up in an age when composers heard rock music and film scores as well as Beethoven and Bach, they realized anything you experienced could influence your art. If Leonard Bernstein would've been a very different composer without jazz, Michael Torke might take some ideas from his contemporary classical colleagues like Philip Glass, Steve Reich or John Adams as well as the pop world of the Beach Boys, rock and rap music or John Williams.

For that matter, just as Dvorak absorbed the Bohemian folk music he grew up in or as Brahms sat in the smoky taverns of Vienna tapping his foot to the gypsy bands he heard there (the 1880s equivalent of New York City's jazz clubs).

And it wasn't just folk music that influenced Bela Bartok, as you can read in the next post in this series about his ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin.

- Dick Strawser

1 comment:

  1. Good luck with this weekend's concert. Thanks for sharing my Torke interview here! Much appreciated!