Famed contemporary composer’s work showcased in three ASU concerts
Tempe, AZ – ASU directors of band and of orchestra, Gary Hill and Timothy Russell, are eagerly anticipating the arrival of one of the most performed and commissioned American composers of his generation, Michael Daugherty, who will be at ASU for a weeklong residency in the Herberger College of Fine Arts School of Music.
Daugherty’s compositions will be featured in three concerts performed by the top band and orchestra ensembles, plus he will take part in informal sessions and master classes with students. The concerts are (Friday) Feb. 8, (Monday) Feb. 11 and (Tuesday) Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Gammage Auditorium. Admission is free to all three and no tickets are required.
“Daugherty’s music uses so many ideas from popular culture that there is something for everyone to enjoy,” says Hill. “All of his music, whether slow or lyric or fast and driving, has very high energy, there’s never a dull moment.”
The composer has created a niche in the music world that is uniquely his own, composing concert music inspired by contemporary American popular culture. “Daugherty’s compositions are an amalgam of classical and modern writing,” notes Hill. The works to be played during Daugherty’s residency are excellent examples of popular culture influence and show the diverse palette of music he brings to his works.
Russell concurs. “For me, Daugherty is one of the most inspiring and refreshing voices in contemporary classical music,” says Russell. “His music is the essence of creativity.”
Daugherty came to national attention as a composer when “Snap! And Blue like an Orange” won a Kennedy Center Friedheim Award. Since that time, his music has been performed by the major orchestras and new music ensembles in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Italy. Current commissions include new works for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the LincolnCenter Chamber Players. Daugherty has received numerous awards for his music, including the Stoeger Prize from Lincoln Center, recognition from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for Arts. After teaching music composition for several years at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Daugherty joined the music composition faculty at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1991, where he is professor of composition.
The title of the Feb. 8 Wind Symphony concert, Aliens, features Daugherty’s 40-minute-long UFO. “Twenty percussionists and an amazing array of out-of-this world sounds make up this fantastic work,” notes Hill. “The concerto is inspired by the unidentified flying objects that have become an obsession in American popular culture,” says Daugherty. “The soloist is introduced as an alien, arriving unexpectedly and playing mysterious percussion instruments in unfamiliar ways.” Daugherty’s Rosa Parks Boulevard is also on the program. “It pays tribute to the woman who helped set in motion the modern civil rights movement by her refusal to move to the back of the bus in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama,” explains Daugherty, who attended a Sunday church service with Mrs. Parks at the St. Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church in Detroit in 1999.
The University Symphony Orchestra’s annual Concert of Soloists on Feb. 11 features Daugherty’s “The Red Cape Tango” from his Metropolissymphony, the composer’s musical response to the myth of Superman; it serves as a fitting finale to the program that begins with music from John Williams’ Superman film score. The time of “The Red Cape Tango” follows Superman’s fight to the death with Doomsday and is the composer’s interpretation of the dance of death with a cornucopia of instruments, including strings, brass, chimes, brake drum, timpani and castanets.
The Feb. 12 Fireworks concert by Chamber Band and Chamber Orchestra is filled with Daugherty works. Sunset Strip, with oboe solo by music professor Martin Schuring, is one in the series of Daugherty compositions inspired by American places and spaces. “As one of the first strips built in America, Sunset Strip has been the happening place for pop culture in California since World War II,” explains Daugherty. “In my composition, I create a musical landscape where I reflect upon the various sounds and images of Sunset Strip from the 1950s through the 1990s.” Dead Elvis, written for small chamber ensemble, features music professor Jeffrey Lyman on bassoon, who has performed the work previously and will be appropriately dressed at the “King of Rock and Roll.” Daugherty writes of the piece: “Elvis is part of American culture, history and mythology, for better or for worse.” Another selection will be Sinatra Shag, which evokes the Las Vegas of the 60s, when leading American popular music entertainers, such as Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy. The final Daugherty selection is “Jackie’s Song” from his chamber opera in two acts,Jackie O.
Michael Daugherty Biography
Michael Daugherty grew up playing keyboards in jazz, rock and funk bands in Iowa. In 1976, he moved to New York City, where he studied composition at the Manhattan School of Music and played piano for modern dance companies. At North Texas State University (1972-1976), he continued performing jazz and composing is first orchestra work.
He was a Fulbright Fellow in Paris, who received his doctorate in music composition from Yale University in 1986. During this time, he also collaborated with jazz arranger Gil Evans in New York City. Daugherty moved to Amsterdam and pursued further studies in music composition with Gyorgy Ligeti in Hamburg, Germany, from 1982 to 1984.
Daugherty came to national attention as a composer when “Snap! And Blue like an Orange” won a Kennedy Center Friedheim Award. Since that time, his music has been performed by the major orchestras and new music ensembles in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Italy. Current commissions include new works for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Lincoln Center Chamber Players.
After teaching music composition for several years at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Daugherty joined the music composition faculty at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1991, where is Professor of Composition.
Daugherty has received numerous awards for his music, including the Stoeger Prize from Lincoln Center, recognition from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for Arts.
His connection to the pop world infuses his work at every level. The inspiration for much of his music comes from icons of the American pop culture. He acknowledges his debt to pop culture, saying: “For me icons serve as a way to have an emotional reason to compose a new work. I get ideas for my compositions by browsing through second bookstores, antique shops and small towns that I find driving on the back roads of America. The icon can be an old postcard, magazine, photography, knick-knack, matchbook, piece of furniture or roadmap. Like Ives and Mahler, I use icons in my music to provide the listener and performer with a layer of reference.”
Editors: Images of Michael Daugherty are available upon request in tif or jpg format – or visit the “Download Images” link at the top of the page.