About this Recording
8.559798 - DAUGHERTY, M.: Tales of Hemingway / American Gothic / Once Upon A Castle (Bailey, P. Jacobs, Nashville Symphony, Guerrero)

Michael Daugherty (b. 1954)
Tales of Hemingway • American Gothic • Once Upon a Castle


Tales of Hemingway (2015) for cello and orchestra was commissioned by the Nashville Symphony and a consortium consisting of the Asheville Symphony, El Paso Symphony Orchestra, Erie Philharmonic, Redwood Symphony and Virginia Symphony Orchestra. The world premiere was given by the Nashville Symphony, Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor, with Zuill Bailey, cello, at Schermerhorn Symphony Center on April 17, 2015.

Tales of Hemingway evokes the turbulent life, adventures, and literature of American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961). Hemingway’s distinctive body of work was also informed by his larger-than-life experiences.

Hemingway was surrounded by music during his youth in Oak Park, Chicago, where his mother was a prominent music teacher and he played the cello in school orchestras. Hemingway’s family owned a remote summer home on Walloon Lake near Petoskey, Michigan, where hunting, fishing, and camping were a family ritual. As an adult, Hemingway’s passion and expertise for deep-sea fishing in the Florida Keys and Cuba, big game hunting in Africa, bullfighting in Spain, and boxing in Paris were legendary.

Hemingway experienced the horrors and ironies of war as a Red Cross ambulance driver in World War I (1918) and as a journalist on the front lines of the Spanish Civil War (1937) and World War II (1944–45). In the 1920s, Hemingway was part of Gertrude Stein’s “Lost Generation” in Paris, where he haunted the bars and cafés with F. Scott Fitzgerald. During his lifetime, many of his works were made into Hollywood films, and his writing was syndicated in magazines and newspapers around the world, making Hemingway an international celebrity and a household name. His terse, direct, accessible writing style, combined with a mastery of dialogue and brilliant use of omission and repetition, made him one of the most influential and original writers of the twentieth century. My cello concerto is divided into four movements, each of which is inspired by one of Hemingway’s short stories or novels:

I. Big Two-Hearted River (1925, Seney, Michigan)
In this story, Nick Adams is an emotionally scarred and disillusioned soldier from World War I who escapes to northern Michigan for a camping/fishing trip to try to regain control of his life. I have composed serene and passionate music that evokes a leitmotif in Hemingway’s writing: his belief that one can be healed by the power of nature through exploring isolated outdoor terrains.

II. For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940, Spanish Civil War)
Hemingway tells the tale of the last three days in the life of Robert Jordan, an American teacher turned demolition expert who has joined the anti-fascist Loyalist guerillas in Spain. Jordan accepts a suicide mission to blow up a bridge only to fall in love with Maria, a young Spanish woman of the Loyalist guerilla camp. The cello strums and plucks, leading the martyr’s march to battle the Fascists and to Jordan’s eventual death. As the chimes explode at the conclusion of the movement, the epitaph of the novel rings forth: “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

III. The Old Man and the Sea (1952, Cuba)
In Hemingway’s Nobel Prize-winning novella, Santiago is a poor, old fisherman whose luck changes when he takes his small boat deep into the Gulf Stream. After an epic struggle, he catches a gigantic marlin. As he makes the long journey home, sharks relentlessly attack his boat and devour the marlin. I have composed an elegy to the struggle of life and death between man and nature.

IV. The Sun Also Rises (1926, Pamplona, Spain)
The main character in this ground-breaking novel is Jake Barnes, bitter and wounded by war, living in Paris as an unhappy expatriate journalist. Aimless in life, he makes a journey to the Festival in Pamplona, Spain. Along the way, he is joined by other adrift souls of the “Lost Generation.” For the final movement of the concerto, I have created an exciting and dramatic sound world where I imagine Jake Barnes, his entourage (and Hemingway) in Pamplona at the Fiesta, watching the running of the bulls and revelling in the spectacle of the bullfights. We also hear musical illuminations of the novel’s enigmatic epigraph, “the sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose.”

American Gothic (2013) for orchestra was commissioned by Orchestra Iowa, Timothy Hankewich, Music Director. The world premiere was given by Orchestra Iowa, under the direction of Timothy Hankewich, at the Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids, Iowa on May 4, 2013. American Gothic is a contemporary musical reflection on the creative world of Iowa artist Grant Wood (1891–1942). Composed in memory of my father, Willis Daugherty (1929–2011), the music also reflects on the years when I grew up in Cedar Rapids as the eldest of five sons in the Daugherty family.

I first became aware of Grant Wood when I was a ten-year-old boy enrolled in art classes at the old Cedar Rapids Public Library (now the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art). Prominently displayed in the room where we learned to draw and paint was Grant Wood’s original painting of his mother, entitled Woman with Plant (1928). I realized that Grant Wood was everywhere in Cedar Rapids: his paintings and lithographs at the Museum of Art; his farm mural at the old Montrose Hotel; his carved wooden Mourner’s Bench in the principal’s office at McKinley Junior High School; his stained glass Memorial Window at the Veteran’s Memorial Building. I often rode my bicycle past the artist’s studio at 5 Turner Alley, where Grant Wood created his most famous painting, American Gothic (1930).

My father was a fan of Grant Wood’s regionalist art. He was a tour guide at the Grant Wood Studio, and he displayed reproductions of American Gothic along with Stone City (1930) at his home. My father was like a character in the background of one of Grant Wood’s paintings. As a youngster during the 1940s, he milked the cows and fed the horses every morning on the farm before walking several miles down a desolate gravel road to a one-room country grade school located in Walker, Iowa.

In 2012, I returned to Cedar Rapids to revisit the small towns of Eastern Iowa. I drove along the back roads and farms where my father grew up, and where Grant Wood found inspiration for the people and places captured in his art. All the while, I was collecting musical ideas and mental images to create an emotional framework for my composition.

I. On a Roll features a rollicking melody with colourful orchestration, suggesting the vivid colours and dynamic curves of Grant Wood’s paintings of rural Iowa. Just as Grant Wood simplified elements of the Iowa landscape into a precisely placed compositional design, I have created an abstract musical pattern. Like the modernist geometric patterns imposed on rolling hills in Young Corn (1931) and in Spring Turning (1936), the music rolls along in a continuous ascending and descending melody that moves from one instrument to the other, from the tuba to the string pizzicato. The percussion crackles like the sound of rows of corn growing on a hot summer day.

II. Winter Dreams is inspired by the bleak winter scenes of rural Iowa depicted in Grant Wood’s paintings and black-and-white lithographs of the 1930s–1940s, such as January and February. The violins play a haunting melody in harmonics and the cellos respond with a melancholy countermelody, evoking a cold winter wind whistling down the valley. The title of this movement hearkens back to Jay Sigmund (1885–1937). As an Iowa poet and close friend of Grant Wood, Sigmund was instrumental in persuading Wood to turn his attention from France back to Iowa for artistic inspiration. In a poem entitled Grant Wood, Sigmund describes how “time found a new son / Dreaming on the plain.”

III. Pitchfork refers to the pitchfork gripped by the dour farmer who stands alongside his spinster daughter in Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic. Many have speculated on the hidden meanings of this American masterpiece: is it a homage to the farmers of Iowa? A social satire? A political critique? A private joke? For me, this iconic painting reveals the ambiguities of American culture and Grant Wood’s dry wit. After all, Grant Wood was a founding member of the infamous Grant Wood Garlic Club in Cedar Rapids, and a practical joker, like my father. For this movement I have composed playful, toetapping music. A quirky melody played by the woodwinds is punctuated by spiky chords in the brass section and bluegrass string riffs. Like the gothic window in the background of Grant Wood’s painting, this movement is a window into my contemporary musical vision of American Gothic.

Once Upon a Castle (2015) for organ and orchestra was commissioned by the Ann Arbor Symphony and a consortium consisting of the Cedar Rapids Symphony, Rockford Symphony Orchestra and West Michigan Symphony Orchestra. The world premiere was given by the Ann Arbor Symphony conducted by Arie Lipsky, with Steven Ball, organ, at the Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor, Michigan, on November 15, 2003. The world premiere of the revised version was given by the Nashville Symphony conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero, with Paul Jacobs, organ, at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, Tennessee, on November 6, 2015.

One of my favourite places to visit is Big Sur, a sparsely populated refuge located along the Pacific coast’s Highway 1 between Monterey and Cambria, California. Driving this scenic route, it is hard not to notice the Hearst Castle set high above the Pacific Ocean on the barren mountains of San Simeon. The Hearst Castle was the vision and private residence of American media mogul William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951) and designed by architect Julia Morgan (1872–1957). Construction of the colossal castle began in 1919 and continued for nearly 30 years. By 1947, the Hearst Castle was a grand estate of 165 rooms. Today, the Hearst Castle is a museum and National Historic Landmark. My sinfonia concertante for organ and orchestra is a nostalgic trip down memory lane to a time that was “once upon a castle.”

I. The Winding Road to San Simeon evokes the five-mile road winding up the San Simeon mountains to the Hearst Castle. The music crescendos until we reach the top of the entrance of the castle, where lush major chords in the organ and panoramic rhythmic sweeps of orchestral colour evoke the spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean high above the coastline. As one of the world’s richest men at the time, Hearst had the means to travel the world to purchase extravagant European classical paintings, tapestries, sculptures and antiquities to decorate the rooms, terraces, pools and walkways of his beloved castle. It is not by chance that I have composed music for this movement that might occasionally remind the listener of a musical “antique.”

II. Neptune Pool is the centrepiece of the Hearst Castle. Framed by statues of the sea-god Neptune and his Nereids, this magnificent outdoor Olympic-sized pool seems to hover above the clouds of the Pacific Ocean. For this movement, I have composed reflective “water music” that wistfully mirrors the grandeur of this aquatic wonder. This movement is dedicated to the memory of organist William Albright (1944–98), my former colleague in the composition department at the University of Michigan, who was considered one the world’s greatest composers of contemporary organ music.

III. Rosebud. In the shadow of the Hearst Castle is Citizen Kane (1941), the groundbreaking film starring and directed by Orson Welles. The film presents an unflattering caricature of Randolph Hearst (Citizen Kane), his mistress Marion Davies (Susan Alexander) and life at the Hearst Castle (Xanadu). My music for this movement echoes a brilliant scene in the film where the boisterous Kane (the organ) and lonely Susan (the solo violin) argue from opposite ends of a cavernous empty room of the castle. The sleighbells remind us of Kane’s final word, before he dies alone: “Rosebud,” painted on Kane’s childhood sled.

IV. Xanadu. Randolph Hearst and his longtime companion Marion Davies were high society’s premiere Hollywood couple, throwing lavish weekend parties at the Hearst Castle during the 1920s and 1930s. Among those who received and accepted the coveted invitations were important political dignitaries such as Winston Churchill and famous film stars of the day including Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, and Greta Garbo.

For the final movement, I also had in mind fragments of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem, Kubla Khan. My Xanadu is filled with exotic organ chords and virtuoso bass pedal riffs surrounded by sizzling strings, rumbling brass, shimmering percussion and pulsating timpani. In the middle of the proceedings, I briefly return to an elaborate development of music from the first movement. After this “flashback,” I pull out all the stops for a dramatic ending, which concludes my tour of Xanadu and the “pleasure-dome” that Hearst built “once upon a castle.”

Michael Daugherty

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