For the 2012-13 Concert Season
Michael Daugherty is one of the most commissioned, performed, and recorded composers on the American concert music scene today. His music is rich with cultural allusions and bears the stamp of classic mod ernism, with colliding tonalities and blocks of sound; at the same time, his melodies can be eloquent and stirring. Daugherty has been hailed by The Times (London) as “a master icon maker” with a “maverick imagination, fearless structural sense and meticulous ear.” Daugherty first came to international attention when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Zinman, performed his Metropolis Symphony at Carnegie Hall in 1994. Since that time, Daugherty’s music has entered the orchestral, band and chamber music repertory and made him, according to the League of American Orchestras, one of the ten most performed living American composers.
In 2011, the Nashville Symphony’s Naxos recording of Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony and Deus ex Machina was honored with three GRAMMY® Awards, including Best Classical Contemporary Composition. Also in 2011, Naxos released a new CD of Daugherty's orchestral music to great acclaim entitled Route 66 with Marin Alsop conducting the Bournemouth Symphony.
Born in 1954 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Daugherty is the son of a dance-band drummer and the oldest of five brothers, all professional musicians. He studied music composition at the University of North Texas (1972-76), the Manhattan School of Music (1976-78), and computer music at Pierre Boulez’s IRCAM in Paris (1979-80). Daugherty received his doctorate from Yale University in 1986 where his teachers included Jacob Druckman, Earle Brown, Roger Reynolds, and Bernard Rands. During this time, he also collaborated with jazz arranger Gil Evans in NewYork, and pursued further studies with composer György Ligeti in Hamburg, Germany (1982-84). After teaching music composition from 1986-90 at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Daugherty joined the School of Music at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) in 1991, where he is Professor of Composition and a mentor to many of today’s most talented young composers.
Daugherty has been Composer-in-Residence with the Louisville Symphony Orchestra (2000), Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1999- 2003), Colorado Symphony Orchestra (2001-02), Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music (2001-04, 2006-08, 2011), Westshore Symphony Orchestra (2005-06), Eugene Symphony (2006), the Henry Mancini Summer Institute (2006), the Music from Angel Fire Chamber Music Festival (2006), and the Pacific Symphony (2010).
Daugherty has received numerous awards, distinctions, and fellowships for his music, including: a Fulbright Fellowship (1977), the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award (1989), the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1991), fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1992) and the Guggenheim Foundation (1996), and the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (2000). In 2005, Daugherty received the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra Composer’s Award, and in 2007, the Delaware Symphony Orchestra selected Daugherty as the winner of the A.I. DuPont Award. Also in 2007, he received the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Award for his composition Raise the Roof for Timpani and Symphonic Band. Daugherty has been named “Outstanding Classical Composer” at the Detroit Music Awards in 2007, 2009 and 2010. His GRAMMY® award winning recordings can be heard on Albany, Argo, Delos, Equilibrium, Klavier, Naxos and Nonesuch labels.
To say that a composer's style is unique merely states what should be true of every composer, and yet when confronted with Michael Daugherty's music one feels compelled to make this claim. Enzo Restagno, Artistic Director of Settembre Musica in Torino, Italy has written:
To observe The American landscape in Michael Daugherty's company is an unforgettable experience which I had during a long nocturnal walk through the streets of New York. Naturally we talked about music, but our talk was interrupted every minute because he kept stopping ecstatically outside a show window or some public building. He wanted to call my attention to some gadget or individual abounding in symbolic value. Clothing, menus, items for everyday use, gestures, posters, billboards, photographs, and architecture, all inspired lengthy observations endowed with great insight, but, at the same time, an affectionate irony. Like the energy that radiates from the icons housed in our European museums and art galleries, Michael Daugherty's music successfully releases the poetic power of American icons.
It is in part this fascination with the vernacular that sets Daugherty's music apart. By using sophisticated compositional techniques to develop his melodic motives combined with complex polyrhythmic layers, he has created a style that is bursting with energy and truly unique. Niagara Falls for symphonic winds will be the principal work considered here, though general background and performance considerations would apply to Desi and Bizarro for orchestral winds, Motown Metal for brass ensemble, Timbuktuba for euphoniums, tubas , and percussion, and UFO, Rosa Parks Boulevard and Red Cape Tango for symphonic winds.
Daugherty's 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 book stores, antique shops, and small towns that I find driving on the back roads of America. The icon can be an old postcard, magazine, photograph, 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. However, one does not need the reference of the icon to appreciate my music. It is merely one level among many in the musical, contrapuntal fabric of my compositions."
The Metropolis Symphony and Bizarro are based on the Superman story; Desi is inspired by the television character Ricky Ricardo. One hears urban Detroit in the industrial sounding Motown Metal and the courage of an Afro-American civil rights icon in the emotional charged Rosa Parks Boulevard. UFO is inspired by the unidentified flying objects that have been an obsession in American popular culture since 1947.
Not surprisingly, Niagara Falls draws its inspiration not only from the falls themselves, but most importantly from the pop culture that surrounds this natural wonder.
"My parents went on their honeymoon and I've visited there many time as I have in-laws in Syracuse so we stop at Niagara Falls on the way. Niagara Falls is a destination for honeymooners and its also one of the biggest capitals of tourist traps in North America. I think that to even write a piece inspired by this sort of concept is still uncommon in concert music. Yet when I am writing the music I am extremely serious about putting the notes, the dynamics and the articulations, the timbre, the structure and the counterpoint. When I compose, I think in a very structural logical way as Webern and Bach did."
Daugherty's melodic material--usually short motives that are repeated in sequences or canons--frequently comes straight from jazz or Latin musical idioms with strong syncopation. Often the accompanying figures are rooted in big band jazz, whether the closely harmonized scale fragments typical of a saxophone section or the explosive interjections by the brass. All of this occurs over rhythmic ostinati or grooves in the bass and percussion sections--the classic rhythm section of pop and jazz.
-- Timothy Salzman (2001)