Orchestra Iowa & Timothy Hankewich | Michael Daugherty: American Gothic

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Michael Daugherty: American Gothic

by Orchestra Iowa & Timothy Hankewich

A contemporary musical reflection on the creative world of Iowa artist, Grant Wood
Genre: Classical: Orchestral
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  Song Share Time Download
1. American Gothic: I. On a Roll
Orchestra Iowa & Timothy Hankewich
5:35 album only
2. American Gothic: II. Winter Dreams
Orchestra Iowa & Timothy Hankewich
8:14 album only
3. American Gothic: III. Pitchfork
Orchestra Iowa & Timothy Hankewich
7:30 album only
4. Interview
Orchestra Iowa & Timothy Hankewich
19:39 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
American Gothic (2013) for orchestra was commissioned and received its world premiere by Orchestra Iowa under the direction of Timothy Hankewich, Music Director, at the Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids, Iowa on May 4, 2013. The composition is scored for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, piano/celeste and strings.

I. On a Roll
The first movement features a rollicking melody with colorful orchestration, suggesting the vivid colors and dynamic curves of Grant Wood’s paintings of rural Iowa. Just as Grant Wood simplified elements of the Iowa landscape into a precisely placed compositional design, I have created an abstract musical pattern. Like the modernist geometric patterns imposed on rolling hills in Young Corn (1931) and in Spring Turning (1936), the music rolls along in a continuous ascending and descending melody that moves from one instrument to the other, from the tuba to the string pizzicato. The percussion crackles like the sound of the corn growing in row after row on a hot summer day.

II. Winter Dreams
The second movement evokes the bleak winters experienced by my father growing up in rural Iowa during the 1930s and scenes, depicted in Grant Wood’s black and white lithographs of the same time period, such as January and February. A haunting melody, played by alto flute and strings in harmonics, evokes a cold winter wind whistling “down in the valley”. The cellos respond with a melancholy countermelody accompanied by sleigh bells. The title of this movement hearkens back to a poem entitled “Grant Wood” by Jay Sigmund (1885-1937) where he exclaims, “ ... time found a new son / Dreaming on the plain.” An Iowa poet and close friend of Grant Wood, Sigmund persuaded the artist to turn his attention from Europe back to Iowa for his subject matter and artistic inspiration.

III. Pitchfork
The title of the third movement refers to the pitchfork gripped by the dour farmer who stands alongside his spinster daughter in Grant Wood’s painting, American Gothic. Many have speculated on the hidden meanings of this American masterpiece. Is it a tribute? A comic portrait? An allegory? A social satire? A political critique? A private joke? For me, this iconic painting reveals the ambiguities of American culture and Grant Wood’s dry wit. After all, he was a founding member of the infamous Grant Wood Garlic Club in Cedar Rapids, and a practical joker, like my father. For this movement, I have composed playful, toe-tapping music. A quirky melody in the woodwinds is punctuated by spiky chords in the brass section and bluegrass riffs in the string section. Like the gothic window in the background of Grant Wood’s painting, this movement is a window into my contemporary musical vision of American Gothic.



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