Rio Grande for symphonic band | Michael Daugherty, composer

Rio Grande
for symphonic band (2015)

Publisher: Michael Daugherty Music

Duration: 8 minutes

World Premiere: October 22, 2015 / Murchison Performing Arts Center, Denton, TX / North Texas Wind Symphony / Eugene Corporon, conductor

Program Note:

Rio Grande (2015) for symphonic band was commissioned by the University of North Texas and a consortium consisting of CBDNA North Central Division Intercollegiate Band, Clovis North Educational Center, Concordia University-Chicago, De Pauw University, Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra’s Wind Symphony, Lone Star Wind Orchestra, Luther College, Messiah College, Ohio University, Pacific Lutheran University, Sam Houston State University, San Diego State University, South Carolina Intercollegiate Band, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Texas Tech University, University of Michigan, University of North Dakota, University of Sydney, University of Texas-Austin and University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Brownsville.

The world premiere was given by the North Texas Wind Symphony, Eugene Migliaro Corporon, music director, at the University of North Texas, Murchison Performing Arts Center, Denton, Texas on October 22, 2015. Duration is 8:30 minutes.

I have composed concert music inspired by American landscapes such as Niagara Falls (1997) for symphonic band, Route 66 (1996) for orchestra, Gee’s Bend (2009) for electric guitar and orchestra, Mount Rushmore (2010) for choir and orchestra, Lost Vegas for orchestra or symphonic band (2011) and Reflections on the Mississippi for tuba and orchestra or symphonic band (2013). I continue my exploration of creating unique aural landscapes with Rio Grande (2015) for symphonic band.

Rio Grande is a 1,250-mile river that flows from the mountains of southern Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico near Brownsville, Texas. The river forms a natural boundary between the United States and Mexico as it winds its way through El Paso, Texas down to Big Bend National Park. It is at Big Bend, one of the largest, most arid and remote areas of the United States, that one experiences the magical canyons and spectacular rock formations that line the “Big River,” known in Mexico as “Rio Bravo.”

In my Rio Grande for symphonic band, I have composed a dynamic, expansive musical landscape that is stark, haunting, agitated and majestic. The percussion section, comprised of timpani, bongos, woodblocks, tom-toms and bass drums, creates a rhythmic undercurrent to an angular motif, first heard in the woodwinds, which emerges high above the musical precipice. This jagged motif is passed on to individual instruments, such as the tuba, and eventually in various colorful guises to the entire symphonic band. Reminding us of the long cultural history associated with the Rio Grande, we also hear ghostly Mexican mariachi music echoing faraway through the canyons. In the coda, I combine all the musical material heard throughout the composition to create a majestic ending to our journey down the timeless Rio Grande.

–Michael Daugherty

A View of the Rio Grande from Big Bend National Park, TX
A View of the Rio Grande from Big Bend National Park, TX