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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Even Better Than the Real Thing

In 1984, a bold, new skyscraper emerged on the Manhattan skyline, which captured everyone’s attention and became the subject of intense controversy. The Chippendale-inspired broken pediment crown of architect Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building shocked the architectural establishment because it so profoundly violated the ruling aesthetic of the day. This bizarre new icon seemed to be cheerfully thumbing its nose at the solemn, modernist glass boxes which surrounded it. Postmodernism was born. Modernism, …

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Adjustable Wrench

Every memorable pop song is constructed with two important ingredients: a catchy hook and a satisfying rhythmic groove. These basic musical elements also can be heard in American composer Michael Torke’s Adjustable Wrench, written in 1987. The piece is scored for a small chamber orchestra and includes piano, synthesizer and marimba. As you listen to Adjustable Wrench, enjoy the feel of the jazz/pop inspired rhythmic groove and the insistent melodic hook. How is …

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December

Music occupies the mysterious realm of metaphor, expressing realities which cannot be put into words. For American composer Michael Torke (b. 1961) music is inextricably bound to extramusical associations like colors, memories and feelings. His evocative titles give us a glimpse at these associations. In a previous post we looked at Torke’s synesthesia, a neurological blurring of the senses which allows him to “hear” colors. December for string orchestra was written in 1995. Why do …

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