Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Short Ride in a Fast Machine"

On June 13 in 1986, a four-minute work debuted by one of the most renowned of modern composers, John Adams (Nixon in China; Doctor Atomic). Played originally by the Pittsburgh Symphony, Short Ride in a Fast Machine would become one of the most frequently performed of all contemporary American orchestral pieces. Marked "delirando" by the composer on the score, the piece begins, says critic Michael Steinberg,
with a marking of quarter notes (woodblock, soon joined by the four trumpets) and eighths (clarinets and synthesizers); the woodblock is fortissimo and the other instruments play forte. Adams describes the woodblock's persistence as 'almost sadistic' and thinks of the rest of the orchestra as running the gauntlet through that rhythmic tunnel.
 I very much enjoyed this imaged-enhanced version of the work. What do you think of it?

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