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Manifest Destiny


Composed in 2009

For orchestra

Duration: 7:00

Instrumentation: pic,2,2,Eh,2,bcl,2,cbn/4,3,3,1/timp/3pc/hp/pno/str


Manifest Destiny is a piece that, while clearly influenced by the classic "Americana" sound of composers like Aaron Copland and William Schuman, has a distinct tinge of darkness to it. Outwardly, it recalls a kind of glorification of the American ideal, but underneath the surface there is a deep and unresolved tension. I thought the historical idea of "manifest destiny" captured both the excitement and promise of the American project while hinting at the sacrifices made, both willing and forced, that have shaped our great country.

Manifest Destiny opens with a blast from the four horns, sounding a jagged, syncopated motive that will become the basis of much of the musical material.  Soon, however, a more fluid, lyrical idea comes into focus (first heard in the muted trumpets and piano).  As the jagged syncopations spin themselves into an energetic counterpoint, the lyrical material is recast as a triumphant chorale in the full brass section.  After a series of episodes in which the angular motive saturates the texture further and further, the chorale returns, more restrained this time, as the solo clarinet plays a leaping melody around it.  Again the jagged motive froths itself up, this time into an ebullient canon in which three tempi occur at the same time.  But something goes wrong—the joyous canon devolves into a frenzied clash of competing rhythms, timbres, and incredibly dissonant sounds.  The music has no choice but to cease immediately and fall into . . . silence?  Not quite, as the cellos, basses, and xylophone hold a chord over from the edge of disaster.  Gradually, the musical ideas seem to take stock of themselves, before building up to a final triumphant return of both the brass chorale and the angular syncopations.  Finally, a final sounding of the opening idea in the full orchestra leads to an exuberant ending, with some instruments perhaps more exuberant than others. . . .


First Performance: New Music for Orchestra, December 11th, 2009

Woolsey Hall, Yale University, New Haven, CT

The Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale; Adrian Slywotzky, conductor


Manifest Destiny was selected for the 2011 American Composers Orchestra Underwood New Music Readings and the 2010 Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Young Composers Forum.


Related Works:

Lemonade Battery

Masque of the Red Death

String Quartet No. 3


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