Music on the Floor

Music on the Floor

Year: 1992

Heading: for 9 musicians

Movement Titles: in three movements

First Performance:
10 April 1992
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
Present Music


Duration: 22'

Recording: Music on the Floor can be found on the release, five

...a three movement work colourfully scored...; the slow movement is particularly haunting and attractive. —Gramophone

[what] really stands out about this 33-year-old composer is his highly individual voice, because, for all of its echoes of Copland and Stravinsky, there is an overall sound that is uniquely Torkean. —Michael Stewart

Music on the Floor rises and resonates. [It] rings, in a tintinnabulation that changes colors as fleeting, far-flung doublings change note by note. —The Milwaukee Journal

Program Note:
I started with instrumentation: two vibraphones (one on the left side and one on the right) to carry the main musical argument, a piano to carry a third voice, a quartet of strings supplying harmonies, and two woodwinds contributing additional melodic material. After finding a basic chord (six pitches with a characteristically Lydian aura) and a particular syncopated rhythm (one that has found its way into almost every piece I've written over the past ten years), I went about work as usual: trying out every possible way of shoving this chord and these rhythms around to come up with extensions, proliferations, and even new themes which arose spontaneously out of my givens. These fragments each had their own emotional and dramatic profile, but the musical expression arose from the organizing and assembly into a three-movement form of these scattered scraps, not the other way round. Composers who work differently might think: 'I feel sad today, let's see what I can come up with', or in a more extreme form, 'I feel overwhelmed with sadness today, I can only write music that sobs with the anguish streaming from me'. I have always believed music is more than just self-expression (or self-therapy, for that matter).

I wouldn't want to disabuse the listener who assumes that Music on the Floor must refer to the intimate nature of the second movement's 'love music': in life, sometimes we don't quite make it to the bedroom in time. But the truth is more prosaic: in late 1991, when I was working on this piece, I used manila folders with descriptive labels to organize the sheets of manuscript paper that were accumulating on the floor: 'Lively music', 'Wetter music', 'Music with hierarchies' etc. In the end, I still had unnamed but potentially useful material lying under the desk and on the rug. I scribbled 'Music on the floor' as a classification for all this other stuff. What is useful to a composer can't always be described in simple adjectives.