Title: Overnight Mail
Heading: 13 musicians
3. Saturday Delivery
29 September 1997
Orkest De Volharding / Jurjen Hempel
(because 11 of the 13 instruments are wind and brass, wind ensembles have often ordered this music)
Recording: Overnight Mail can be found on the release, four
...the unmistakable spirit of dance soars through the opening passages [of this] extraordinary 1997 piece...the musical mood is not far from Leonard Bernstein's joyful Fancy Free. In fact, Torke may turn out to be the true heir to Bernstein's populist throne rather than America's answer to Michael Nyman. Torke's is certainly music to confound snobs and give immense pleasure. —Octavio Roca, BBC Music Magazine
There are stretches of great beauty and expression in..."Standard" (the second movement), with its moving melodies and supple orchestration. —American Record Guide
At his best, Torke manages to capture a feeling of glowing euphony and an effortless quality that is rare in new music today...[he] is one of the foremost compositional talents in America today. —Martyn Harry, Gramophone
Overnight Mail was commissioned by the Orkest de Volharding for their 25th anniversary. 17 minutes long, it is scored for their usual complement of instruments, 3 saxes, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, flute, horn, piano and bass. The titles of each of its three movements, Priority, Standard, and Saturday Delivery present the options for expediency when sending things, but musically, they represent different reactions to an abstract compositional problem I set up for myself: resolve dissonant notes (non chord tones) by leaps rather than steps. For me this was important, because I want to write music that follows all the old rules of voice leading and counterpoint, but sound fresh. I truly believe that it is unusual and interesting to avoid parallel 5ths and octaves, for which the result is not archaic. I view that concern as being almost radical.
The first movement's punchiness shows the particular tradition of Dutch musicianship, which this illustrious group, founded by Louis Andriessen, is the premiere example. Flowing, lengthy melodic variations are featured in the slower second movement, while the third movement draws its inspiration from what is known in popular groups as the "horn section": a trio of sax, trumpet, and trombone playing together in octaves, sometimes even in unison.