Shades of Fukushima (May, 2012)

Duration: 15'                                                                Back to Composition List

Premiered: March 25, 2013

Harris Hall, University of Memphis

University of Memphis Orchestra

Conducted by Kamran Ince

Program Notes:

An earthquake registering 9.0 on the Richter scale occurred in the Tohoku region of Japan on the island of Honshu on March 11, 2011.  This earthquake caused major damage to the Fukushima Daiichi (number one) Power Plant.   A subsequent tsunami occurred as a result of this quake, further complicating the efforts to control the nuclear meltdown already in progress in Fukushima.  This piece reflects these cataclysmic series of events that occurred on this day in Fukushima, Japan.

            It was my aim to create music that was both powerful and bold.  In doing so, the musical language that developed made use of simple motives that become gestures throughout the piece.  The first section uses sonorities that are rather dense and dissonant to reflect the tragic events unfolding.  The percussion section utilizes a wide variety of instruments whose roots are from diverse cultures.  This helps signify the wide spread effect of the catastrophe while providing a palette of multiple timbres within the piece.

              In the second slower section, the same pitch material is used, but voiced and orchestrated more polytonally to achieve a different effect. One could think the use of polytonality represents the coming together of both natural and man-made disasters.  The harmony in this section begins rather simply with the use of minor triads vacillating between one another, creating a hypnotic effect.  At times the sound of one tonality is also heard passing through another and/or melting together. Following the brief percussion solo there is a return to the original bold gestures as they are intensified through the use of dense harmony, orchestration and dynamics. The final section uses a different musical language derived from the writings of Oliver Messiaen in his book, Technique de mon langage musical (The Technique of my Musical Language).  The result is more calm, melodic and tranquil.  The pitch material is based on the octotonic scale where more open sonorities are used to harmonize the melody.  There is one last return to the motives from the second section melded together with other themes already heard.  The piece seems to end with a clear resolution to a b minor triad.  However, a Bb flat minor triad slips in from underneath with a crescendo creating uneasy feeling of dissonance, signifying the culmination of these tragedies. 

© Richard Scott Adams 2013