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Daugherty's Deus Ex Machina: musical world of trains

(March 2007)

Daugherty's Deus Ex Machina: the musical world of trains

March 16 marks the world premiere of Michael Daugherty's first piano concerto, entitled Deus Ex Machina, from the latin "god from the machine."  Commissioned by a consortium of orchestras - Charlotte Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, Memphis Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, and Syracuse Symphony - the piece will receive its premiere with pianist Terrance Wilson in Charlotte, North Carolina, before traveling around the eastern United States this year.

True to form, Michael Daugherty delivers a piece rich in American culture and imagery.  The piano concerto is a tribute to the musical world of trains, each movement focusing in on a particular train or railway.  The first movement, Fast Forward or  Di andata veloce, is inspired by a synthesis of train-influenced visual art from the early 1900's and Italian futurist F.T. Marinetti's Manifesto of Modernism (1909), which proclaimed the unifying power of machine technologies.  The second movement, Train of Tears, follows the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln which traveled from Washington, DC, to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.  A haunting movement, laced with "Taps" and a ghost-like leit motif, Daugherty paints a grave portrait of a mourning country.  The third and final movement is an ode to the Norfolk and Western railroad line, the last line of coal-burning steam engines which operated in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland.  Daugherty aptly named this movement Night Steam, saying the music is reminiscent of the "majestic fire-eating steam locomotives" as they "rumble and whistle their way through the small towns and lonely back roads of the Shenendoah Valley into extinction."

> Further information on Work: Deus Ex Machina

Photo: Grant Leighton

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