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Siren Song

(1987, rev. 1997) for orchestra

instrumentation:    
3(2+pic,3+a fl).3(3=Ehn).3(3=Bcl).3(3=cbn)/4331/timp.3perc.hp.cel.pno/strings

duration: 8 minutes

premieres:
1987 version: Chicago Civic Orchestra, Michael Morgan
1997 version: Roanoke Symphony, David Wiley

   mp3 excerpt

 

Perusal Score

siren song          

Recording

Ra! orchestra Innova 634    American Midlife
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, David Dzubay

Program Note

siren song n : an alluring utterance or appeal; esp : one that is seductive or deceptive. (Webster)

Although not strictly a programmatic work, Siren Song generally follows the course of mariners lured to destruction by the enticing sounds of beautifully haunting Sirens.

The work is divided into three parts, the first featuring 'magical' sounds: sparkling filigree, sustained tones with changing color, distant bell tolls, and the shimmering, high-pitched hum of musical glasses. After building to a climax and dying away, a 'mysterious' section emerges, centered on a gradually expanding ascending figure, which is decorated by a collage of percussion and abrupt exchanges between muted brass and strings. The double basses sustain an eerie pedal throughout. A fanfare by the horns signals the beginning of the 'ominous' third and final part, built around a haunting melody first stated by oboe and bassoon (with frantic accompaniment), and eventually by the entire orchestra. An explosive climax follows, reaching a decisive conclusion before a return to things as they were.

Perhaps I should admit that I did not title this short work until after it was fully composed. However, soon after choosing Siren Song as title, it seemed impossible to consider anything else. I feel I discovered the correct title for the music. This belief was supported by an audience member who asked me if the wild pizzicato strings near the end, which gradually subside, were meant to evoke air bubbles rising to the surface as the ship sinks - a comment I treasure.

 

Performances:

Chicago Civic Orchestra (Michael Morgan), Detroit Symphony (Michael Morgan), Honolulu Symphony Orchestra (Donald Johanos), Indiana University Symphony (James DePreist), Indiana University Philharmonic (Akira Mori, George Hanson), Oakland East Bay Symphony(Morgan), Oregon Symphony (Edward Cumming), Roanoke Symphony (David Wiley)

Score Samples

(pages 1, 13, 18, 25, 28):