Bright Blue Music

Bright Blue Music

Heading: for orchestra

Year: 1985

First Performance:
23 November 1985
Carnegie Hall, New York City
New York Youth Symphony/ David Alan Miller

Instrumentation: 3(II,III=picc.).2.2.2 (4):syl/glsp/vib/t.bells/susp.cym/maracas/ tamb/wdbl/claves/bongo/2crash cyms/2brake dr/tglpftharpstrings

Duration: 9'

Recording: Bright Blue Music can be found on the release called, one

The work is at once absurd and attractive. Torke casually jettisons centuries of harmonic endeaver; Gesualdo, Wagner, Schoenberg have lived in vain. A few chromatic notes intrude, but they are soon resolved. It's a happy piece. And observing someone exuberantly at play usually gives pleasure- for a while at least. —Andrew Porter, The New Yorker

In Bright Blue Music, we find Torke revelling in the sheer pleasure of creating music for pure enjoyment, at once immediate and appealing.

A friend jokingly described "Bright Blue Music" as sounding like "John Adams getting stoned and listening to 'Der Rosenkavalier.' " That will suffice as well as any other description of a piece that sends a perky waltztime figure galloping through the orchestra like a fugitive from one of Copland's cowboy ballets. It's a brashly attractive, well made piece...
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

Program Note:
Bright Blue Music was composed between 18-July and 1-September, 1985. Commissioned by the New York Youth Symphony as part of their First Music series, it was premiered at Carnegie Hall 23 November 1985 conducted by David Alan Miller.

The last two pieces of mine (Vanada, Ecstatic Orange) break up and reassemble a 16th note pulse in the context of a single, general sweep from beginning to end. I wanted to continue this development in Bright Blue Music, but I felt unsettled about the language to employ these ideas.

Inspired by Wittgenstein's idea that meaning is not in words themselves, but in the grammar of the words used, I conceived of a parallel in musical terms: harmonies in themselves do not contain meaning; rather, musical meaning results only from the way harmonies are used. Harmonic language is then, in a sense, inconsequential. If the choice of harmony is arbitrary, why not use the simplest, most direct, and (for me) most pleasureable: I and V chords; tonic and dominant. Once this decision was made and put in the back of my mind, an unexpected freedom of expression followed. With the simplest means, my musical emotions and impulses were free to guide me. Working was exuberant: I would leave my outdoor studio and the trees and bushes seemed to dance, and the sky seemed a bright blue.

That bright blue color contributed towards the piece's title, but in conjunction with another personal association. The key of D major, the key of this piece (from which there is no true modulation) has been the color blue for me since I was five years old.