Program Note for Party Favors (orchestra, 2007)


Party Favors was written for Larry Rachleff and the San Antonio Symphony and finished in January 2007.  It is scored for full orchestra with triple winds and a large battery of percussion. 

As a composer living and working in San Antonio for some 15 years, I wanted to write a rousing concert opener for our Fiesta City and for all my friends and colleagues in the orchestra who have played my music.  This piece may be programmed as an independent work or it may also serve as the last movement of my larger work, Symphony B-A-C-H.  In that symphony, each movement explores a different aspect of musical texture beginning with polyphony (the combination of several musical lines), then monophony (a solo line), homophony (all lines moving in the same rhythm), and finally - in Party Favors - cacophony (noise-sounds and extreme dissonance).  All of these symphonic movements are based on the name of BACH (or in German, Bb, A, C, and B natural) and in Party Favors I use dense chromatic clusters of BACH to build cacophonous sounds in a playful homage.  Consequently this work relies heavily on “noise-makers” in the brass and percussion sections. The piece opens with two of these loud clusters and continues to add BACH in dense layers with divided strings.  This opening section returns after three different episodes, each time slightly modified with more and more sound.

In contrast to the opening section, each episode uses BACH in an entirely different manner.  Here the four-note motive is worked into a variety of vernacular rhythms and short melodies infused with elements of swing, funk, and salsa.  These episodes or “party favors” each become wildly exaggerated and take us back to the opening material.  In this musically polystylistic world, cacophony is brought into question as the noise and music merge.  Sometimes ferocious and sometimes comical, any sounds - even cacophonous ones - can be musical in the right context.  The piece closes with a whimsical nod to classical music that tries to insert itself over the festive cacophony of noise-makers.

DURATION – 7’ 35”