Electric Lines

Robert Paterson

About this work:
In past summers, I have had the opportunity to take 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 somewhat natural splendor of the farmland, 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.
Year composed: 2004
Duration: 00:08:30
Ensemble type: Orchestra:Unknown
Instrumentation: 1 Piccolo, 3 Flute, 3 Oboe, 1 English Horn, 2 Eb Clarinet, 3 Clarinet, 1 Bass Clarinet, 3 Bassoon, 1 Contrabassoon, 4 Horn in F, 3 Trumpet, 2 Trombone, 1 Bass Trombone, 1 Tuba, 1 Timpani, 3 Percussion (General), 1 Strings (General)
Instrumentation notes: Flute III doubling Piccolo. Oboe III doubling English Horn. Clarinet III doubling Bass Clarinet in B-flat, Clarinets II and III doubling E-flat clarinet. Bassoon III doubling Contrabassoon. Percussion Instruments Needed by Percussionist I Tubular Chimes (shared with Perc. II) Vibraphone (Shared with Perc. II) Xylophone Orchestra Bells (shared with Perc. III) Medium Suspended Cymbal Medium Crash Cymbals Medium Slap Stick Ratchet Police Whistle Percussion Instruments Needed by Percussionist II Tubular Chimes (shared with Perc. I) Vibraphone (Shared with Perc. I) Crotales: High Set Snare Drum Large Suspended Cymbal Medium Suspended Cymbal Medium Crash Cymbals Medium Triangle Medium Woodblock Percussion Instruments Needed by Percussionist III Orchestra Bells (shared with Perc. I) Large Concert Bass Drum Crotales: Low Set Medium Suspended Cymbal Small Suspended Cymbal Anvil Medium Triangle Small Triangle Ratchet (Mounted on Bass Drum)

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