Symphony for Steven Millhauser

ENS.2011.1 | 30′
4 Oboes, 4 Trumpets, 4 Violins


1. Fantasiestücke (J. Franklin Payne)

2. Märchenbilder (August Eschenburg)

3. Nachtmusik (Edmund Moorash)

The extraordinary writer Steven Millhauser possesses a magical ability to combine the archetypal American experience with the fantastic, the fairy tale, and the crepuscular, and my Symphony for Steven Millhauser evokes and pays homage to his wonderful fictions.

However, the symphony neither depicts specific characters nor rehashes any plot, instead merely suggesting the mood, atmosphere, and drama of three of Millhauser’s stories. The German titles of each movement suggest the kind of nineteenth-century Romanticism that so often figures in Millhauser’s work and has inspired my own, particularly that of Schumann and Brahms (although of course my music sounds nothing like theirs!).

Fantasiestücke (Fantasy Pieces) is fast, made of tiny, rapidly changing cells that distort and transform in the manner of the amazing animated films of Little Kingdoms’s J. Franklin Payne. In Märchenbilder (Fairy Tale Pictures) the music ticks like irregular clocks to depict August Eschenburg’s puppetry described In the Penny Arcade. Nachtmusik (Night Music) is slower still, describing the tenebrous world of Edmund Moorash’s eerie paintings, also from Little Kingdoms.

Symphony for Steven Millhauser was composed in 2010-2011 for a quasi-baroque ensemble of oboes, trumpets, and violins, and lasts about 30 minutes.