Friday, November 18, 2011

CCC 05 - Michael Torke

Michael Torke is our next selection in the Consonant Classical Challenge.

Torke has defined himself as a post-minimalist composer, and that's a pretty good description. His music definitely has the same forward motion as that of minimalists like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. And his harmonies are mostly based on major and minor triads. The difference is, though, that Torke's melodies are more organic and engaging than the brief motifs of the minimalists.

Here's an excerpt from his percussion concerto, Rapture. Now the very thought of the percussion center being front and center in a concert is enough to send many bluehairs heading for the exits. But give this a listen. Sure, it's rhythmical, but it's also tuneful. Especially the percussion parts. There are melodic motives being laid out by the drums that the orchestra picks up and develops. And notice how tonal everything is -- nothing here harmonically that Vivaldi would find too far out. But the orchestration and structure places it clearly in the here and now. 

Or how about this selection from Torke's work "An American Abroad?" It has a nodding acquaintance with Gershwin's "An American in Paris." The music has the same bustling optimism, and a hint of American jazz. But this isn't the 1930's, and the voice is Torke's own.

I think what makes Torke's music so appealing is that, even when it's quiet and contemplative, it's always bristling with energy. Contemporary classical music can be tonal -- but it doesn't have to be derivative and boring.

Want the next generation to become concert-goers? Then how about programming music by someone who speaks their musical language?

Recommended recordings:

Michael Torke: Tahiti

Michael Torke: Rapture; An American Abroad; Jasper

Javelin: The Music of Michael Torke

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