About this Recording
8.559765 - MCTEE, C.: Symphony No. 1 / Circuits / Einstein's Dream / Double Play (Detroit Symphony, Slatkin)

Cindy McTee (b. 1953)
Circuits • Symphony No 1: Ballet for Orchestra • Einstein’s Dream • Double Play


Hailed by critics as a composer whose music reflects a ‘charging, churning celebration of the musical and cultural energy of modern-day America,’ Cindy McTee ‘brings to the world of concert music a fresh and imaginative voice.’ Born in 1953 in Tacoma, WA, she began piano studies at the age of six with a teacher who encouraged improvisation. This eventually led to composition in many forms including jazz, orchestral, chamber, and electronic music. Another influential teacher was the eminent Polish composer, Krzysztof Penderecki, with whom McTee studied for three years.

McTee has received numerous awards for her music, most significantly the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s third annual Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award, a Music Alive Award from Meet The Composer and the League of American Orchestras, two awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, a Composers Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a BMI Student Composers Award. She was also winner of the 2001 Louisville Orchestra Composition Competition.

Among the many orchestras to have performed her music are the Orchestre National de Lyon, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New World Symphony, the Aspen Festival Orchestra, the Pacific Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo, the Philharmonia Orchestra, London, and the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Flagstaff, Houston, Indianapolis, Nashville, Omaha, Pittsburgh, Puerto Rico, Rochester, Saint Louis, San Antonio, Seattle, and Sydney.

In 2011, Cindy McTee retired from the University of North Texas as Regents Professor Emerita and married conductor Leonard Slatkin.

Additional information about the music of Cindy McTee can be found online at www.cindymctee.com as well as in a book by Michael K. Slayton entitled Women of Influence in Contemporary Music: Nine American Composers.

Notes by the Composer

Circuits (1990)

Circuits was written in 1990 for the Denton Chamber Orchestra and conductor Jonathan B. Roller of Denton, Texas. The title, Circuits, is meant to characterize (1) the use of a formal design incorporating numerous, recurring short sections and (2) the presence of an unrelenting, kinetic energy. The inclusion of jazz elements and the playful manipulation of musical materials using syncopation, sudden transposition, and juxtaposition are also characteristic of the work.

Symphony No 1: Ballet for Orchestra (2002)

Made possible by the John and June Hechinger Commissioning Fund for New Orchestral Works, Symphony No 1: Ballet for Orchestra was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and Music Director, Leonard Slatkin.

I. Introduction: On with the Dance

Music is said to have come from dance—from the rhythmic impulses of men and women. Perhaps this explains why the impulse to compose often begins as a rhythmical stirring and leads to a physical response—tensing muscles, gesturing with hands and arms, or quite literally, dancing. My Ballet for Orchestra emerged out of this kinesthetic/emotional awareness and a renewed interest in dance music. Inspired by the opening theme of Beethoven’s Symphony No 5, this movement is also informed by jazz rhythms and sounds.

II. Adagio: Till a Silence Fell

The second movement begins without pause, silencing all but the strings to provide a more intimate mood. Adapted from my Agnus Dei for organ in the wake of events following the horror of September 11, 2001, the music gradually exposes a hauntingly beautiful melody from Krzysztof Penderecki’s Polish Requiem [Naxos 8.557386–87]. With occasional references to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings [Naxos 8.559088], the movement’s harmonic language reflects my interest in using both atonal and tonal materials within the same piece of music.

III. Waltz: Light Fantastic

Following the classical symphonic model, this movement is a dance—a quick waltz inspired by Ravel’s La Valse.

IV. Finale: Where Time Plays the Fiddle

Jazz elements permeate the textures of the final movement, and references to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring can be heard at several points along the way.

Einstein’s Dream (2004)

Einstein’s Dream, for string orchestra, percussion, and computer music on CD, was commissioned by Andrew Litton and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, with financial support from the Norma and Don Stone New Music Fund. Composed to commemorate the World Year of Physics (2005) with Einstein in the 21st Century as its theme, Einstein’s Dream consists of seven continuous sections with the following titles:

1. Warps and Curves in the Fabric of Space and Time
2. Music of the Spheres
3. Chasing After Quanta
4. Pondering the Behavior of Light
5. The Frantic Dance of Subatomic Particles
6. Celestial Bells
7. Wondering at the Secrets

As we know, Albert Einstein gave much thought to issues of space and time, and he dreamt of finding a theory of everything, or a broad, mathematical structure that would fully explain and link together all known phenomena. This piece celebrates this dream and the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s miraculous year (1905) in which he published three important papers on quantum theory. In a review for the Detroit Free Press, Mark Stryker perfectly captured the essence of what I tried to accomplish in this work:

…McTee’s computer music stands for modernist complexity and atonality and the mathematical compositional systems that held sway in the ’60s and ’70s, producing music of great dissonance and abstraction. The computer sounds include all manner of metallic crescendos, shimmering whooshes, percussive bonks and granular and gritty textures that gather like clouds or chatter nervously. Meanwhile, the strings, which open Einstein’s Dream playing a warm Bach chorale, suggest the nostalgia and comfort of traditional musical values.

Computer hardware and software seeks to expand compositional and performance resources beyond those available using traditional instruments and voices, offering the composer the ability, not merely to compose with sounds, but to compose the sounds themselves. Computers also allow composers to change traditional concepts of musical time—to effectively “stop” sound—to capture, store, modify, and to play back sound events. I am particularly fascinated by the interplay between the kind of time embodied by pre-recorded computer music (fixed and machine-like) and the kind of time represented by live performance (approximate and human.)

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, we Americans have embraced science and technology as a major part of our national identity. I am intrigued by the discoveries of science and especially by the ways in which the arts and sciences intersect: both fields investigate the unknown, propose theories, experiment with possibilities, attempt to resolve paradoxes, and generally help us to better understand ourselves and the universe in which we live. It is interesting to note that Einstein’s search for a grand theory of unification took him into a world where intuition prevailed—to a place where science and art merged.

Double Play (2010)

Commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in honor of Elaine Lebenbom, and premiered by the DSO and Leonard Slatkin, Double Play consists of two continuous movements, each of which can be performed separately.

I. Unquestioned Answer

I have always been particularly attracted to the idea that disparate musical elements—tonal and atonal, placid and frenetic—can not only coexist but also illuminate and complement one another. I can think of no composer more capable of achieving these kinds of meaningful juxtapositions than Charles Ives. As in Ives’ Unanswered Question, my Unquestioned Answer presents planes of highly contrasting materials: sustained, consonant sonorities in the strings intersect to create dissonances; melodies for the principal players soar atop; and discordant passages in the brass and winds become ever more disruptive. The five-note theme from Ives’ piece is heard in both its backward and forward versions throughout the work.

II. Tempus Fugit

Tempus Fugit, Latin for “time flees” but more commonly translated as “time flies,” is frequently used as an inscription on clocks. My Tempus Fugit begins with the sounds of several pendulum clocks ticking at different speeds and takes flight about two minutes later using a rhythm borrowed from Leonard Slatkin’s Fin for orchestra. Jazz rhythms and harmonies, quickly-moving repetitive melodic ideas, and fragmented form echo the multifaceted and hurried aspects of 21st-century American society.

Cindy McTee

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