Lost Vegas for orchestra | Michael Daugherty, composer

Lost Vegas
for orchestra (2011)

I. Viva
II. Mirage
III. Fever

Instrumentation: Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, English Horn, Eb Clarinet, Bb Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, 2 Bassoons, Contra Bassoon
4 Horns, 4 C Trumpets (straight metal mute, harmon mute), 3 Trombones (3. Bass) (straight metal mute, harmon mute), Tuba
Timpani (Four drums; 23 inch, 26 inch, 29 inch, 32 inch)
Percussion (4 Players; instruments are not shared unless indicated otherwise):

  1. Bongos, Congas, Claves, 4 Temple Blocks (very large, large, medium, small), Suspended Cymbal, Medium Triangle, Latin Cowbells (small and medium), Bell Tree, Tambourine, Bass Drum, Gong
  2. Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Suspended Cymbal, Chimes (shared with Percussion 3)
  3. Vibraphone, Vibraslap, Bass Drum (large), Chimes
  4. Marimba (4 1/2 octaves), Vibraphone (shared with Percussion 3), Large Whip, Mark Tree, Suspended Cymbal, Crash Cymbals, Bass Drum (shared with Percussion 3)


Publisher: Michael Daugherty Music

Duration: 14:30 minutes

World Premiere: Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music

Program Note: 

Lost Vegas (2011) for orchestra was commissioned by the Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music, Marin Alsop, Music Director and the Orange County School of the Arts Symphony Orchestra, Christopher Russell, Music Director.  The band version of Lost Vegas (2011) was commissioned by the University of Michigan Symphony Band, Michael Haithcock, conductor, and the University of Miami Wind Ensemble, Gary Green, conductor.

Lost Vegas is my musical homage to bygone days in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada.  I recall the enormous neon signs punctuating the “Strip,” promoting casinos and hotels ruled by the underworld, and the massive marquees trumpeting performances by pop music legends such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis. Performed without pause, Lost Vegas is divided into three movements.

The first movement, “Viva,” is inspired by the seminal book Learning from Las Vegas (1968–72), by modernist architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, who likened the symbolism of the Vegas “Strip” to the Piazza Navona in Rome. The music in “Viva” unfolds as catchy musical riffs are layered and phased in various polytonal guises and orchestrations.

“Mirage,” the second movement, is inspired by my recent drive through the forbidding desert of Death Valley.  Located 88 miles west of Las Vegas, Death Valley is one the lowest, driest, and hottest locations in North America. A serpentine oboe solo, later doubled by trumpets with harmon mutes, is surrounded by steamy brass chords and twisting countermelodies played by winds and percussion keyboards. Accompanied by an ominous bass drum, the music in “Mirage” appears and disappears, like an optical illusion one might encounter in the scorching desert, or driving from the pitch-black darkness of Death Valley in the dead of night toward the bright lights of Las Vegas.

The final movement, “Fever,” is a swinging tribute to an earlier epoch, when legendary entertainers such as Elvis, Peggy Lee, Bobby Darin, Stan Kenton, and Frank Sinatra’s “Rat Pack” performed in intimate and swanky showrooms of the Sands, Tropicana, and Flamingo hotels.

Torn down long ago, the original neon signs, casinos and hotels of the Vegas “Strip” have been replaced by impersonal, corporate glass towers. The cozy nightclubs, where the “Rat Pack” once performed edgy material, have been replaced by large arenas, where commercialized family entertainment is now presented. My composition is a trip down memory lane to an adventurous and vibrant Vegas that once was and returns, if only for a moment, in Lost Vegas.

–Michael Daugherty