Michael Torke’s “An American Abroad” (“An American in Paris” 2.0?)

Did George Gershwin write this piece from the grave? The spirit of Gershwin seems to inhabit Michael Torke’s 2002 orchestral tone poem, An American Abroad. It’s music filled with broad, warmly embracing melodies, the almost naive optimism of Broadway, and, at moments, quiet nostalgia. The title is an obvious reference to Gershwin’s An American in Paris and brings to mind the mysterious nature of influence. Listening to this piece, I get the sense that Torke didn’t …

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“Three Manhattan Bridges:” Michael Torke’s Valentine to New York

The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up …

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Five Pieces Inspired by the Olympics

The Olympics are a wonderful metaphor for world cooperation, the kind of international competition that’s wholesome and healthy, an interplay between countries that represents the best in all of us.  -John Williams Music has served as a celebratory backdrop for the Olympics since the first modern games in Athens in 1896. As the 2016 Summer Olympic Games unfold in Rio, let’s listen to five pieces which form an Olympic soundtrack: Josef Suk: …

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Musical Humidity: Michael Torke’s "Tahiti"

  When you listen to the music of the most time-tested, enduring composers, it’s easy to get a sense of effortless perfection, as if the music couldn’t be any other way. It’s impossible to know if Michael Torke, or any other living composer, will one day fall into the “enduring” category. But I often sense this quality in Torke’s music. It speaks with sublime honesty. A strange combination of elements emerge in …

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Based on a Pop Groove: Michael Torke’s July

On Friday we explored Renaissance composer Orlande de Lassus’ adaptive reuse of a bawdy French song by Jacobus Clemens non Papa. It was an example of a composer recognizing a good melody and transforming it for a completely different setting. But what happens when musical influence becomes much more subtle…so subtle that the composer forgets (or remains unaware of) the source? American composer Michael Torke’s July grew out of a momentary fragment of the rhythmic …

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Michael Graves’ Postmodern Legacy

They say (quoting Goethe) that architecture is “frozen music;” so it seems appropriate to mark the sudden passing of one of the giants of American architecture. Michael Graves passed away yesterday at age of 80 at his home, “The Warehouse,” in Princeton, New Jersey. A member of “The New York Five,” he rose to prominence in the 1980s as one of the leading Postmodern architects. In keeping with postmodernism, Graves’ sometimes controversial architecture …

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Bright Blue Music

As a followup to last Wednesday’s post, here is another exuberant slice of musical postmodernism by American composer Michael Torke (b. 1961). Bright Blue Music (1985) is a celebration of one of the most basic and fundamental building blocks of tonal music: the pull of the V chord (the dominant) back home to I (tonic). Throughout the twentieth century many composers avoided tonal relationships altogether, which makes the opening of Bright Blue Music, with its conventional …

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