Whoop For Your Life!

The recorded excerpt is performed by the Polish Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra of Krakow; Jose Maria Florencio, conductor.

Whoop for Your Life!
for orchestra

Duration: 15' 

Instrumentation: 3333, 4331 + baritone horn,piano,harp,timpani,3 percussion, strings

"Whoop for Your Life!" shows explores the dynamic created when seemingly irreconcilable points of view are combined---in this case, a festive character of celebration is asserted in the shadow of impending disaster. To symbolize this contradiction, I invoke the music of Brazil: vibrant life-affirming music from a country where the rain forests are being destroyed at a catastrophic rate. The title refers to a visit to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (Texas) in 1986, where I watched the last of the Whooping Cranes going about their business---feeding, courting, mating, nesting and raising young---as if they were nothing special, and not the last of a species on the edge of extinction.

The piece employs a rich musical language abstracted from various regions---from the Brazilian carnival to the Texas fiddle contest---with a healthy dose of Aransas "whooping" thrown in. This diverse material is balanced by a rigorous sonata-like organization, with nearly all the harmony and melody generated by a single chord of gradually expanding musical intervals. The chord, which first appears in the brass, gives rise to a stubborn rugged march. In contrast, a second theme---introduced by the english horn---is wild, provocative, prodding and probing, like a crane feeding. Next, a developmental section combines fragments of these themes and pits them against one another, leading eventually to a return of the opening brass chord. This hint of a recapitulation turns out to be illusory and gives rise to a new theme in the muted strings. Entirely different in character, this theme resembles a Texas fiddle tune and suggests a personal, peaceful world of fantasy and imagination. Gradually, reality intrudes, as the original themes reassert themselves with renewed vigor and propel the music forward to a cacophonous percussion quartet which coalesces into a climactic concluding section. The piece ends with a mysterious invocation of the opening chord.

This work was commissioned and premiered by the Redwood Symphony and featured at the 1991 Cabrillo Music Festival in Santa Cruz, California.

Click here to purchase Whoop For Your Life! on iTunes. To order a score and parts contact Terra Non Firma Press