Martha Uncaged - concerto for trumpet based on the life of Martha Graham
Soloist - Paul Merkelo. Jim Stephenson conducting
View score: https://issuu.com/stephensonmusic/docs/martha_uncaged_-_final_score_edited
I. Caged Lion
II. Denishawn - breakaway
III. Interlude: Louis Horst
IV. Interlude: Erick Hawkins
V. Finale - Gravity
"Caged Lion" - the 1st movement - describes how Martha Graham, as a young dancer in NY, was first inspired by watching a caged lion as it walked back and forth in its captivity. As she described it: "Imagine (the lion) as it paced, 1-2-3-4 turn, 1-2-3-4, turn, etc." The mixed meter 9/8 (but scored 3/4 + 3/8) allows an extra eighth note on the
final beat for the lion to turn. The 4-note "Martha motif" is introduced in the low flute, and is examined throughout the work. It grows and evolves in proportion to Martha's life experiences.
"Denishawn - breakaway" - the 2nd movement - describes how Martha broke away from her first dance company to join a new and more exciting/forward-thinking troupe in LA. It is a tarantella, having a "breaking-free" spirit to it. A driving 18/8 section - heavy in the lowest instruments - represents Martha's tenacity and inner fortitude.
"Interlude: Louis Horst" - the 3rd mvmt is the pas de deux of sorts, reflecting Martha's love-affair with her music accompanist/composer/pianist over the years. They never married. Musically it is meant to reflect the romantic improvasitory manner in which a rehearsal accompanist might play.
"Interlude: Erick Hawkins" - the 4th movement describes her brief marriage to the young dancer in her company. It is a modern setting of an older musical style (bourrée), and is short-lived, just like their relationship.
"Finale - Gravity" - the 5th movement sums up her new language of dance, which had the characteristics of gravity, barefoot dancing, and being distinctly American. Therefore, the weight of the almost-tribal music lands constantly on the main beat, reinforced by downward momentum and bass drum strokes. The "Martha motif" is eventually resolved with finality, giving the work a celebratory nature, as it reflects on the genius of a one-of-a-kind American icon of dance, Martha Graham.
Jim Stephenson, composer. November, 2014
"Martha Uncaged" can work in a musical concert performance setting, or danced as a ballet.
An interesting program would be to pair this with Copland's "Appalachian Spring", which was commissioned by Martha Graham.
Duration: 16-17 minutes Instrumentation:
SOLO Trumpet + piccolo, flute, English horn, clarinet in A, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, contrabassoon, trombone 2 percussion, harp, piano, contrabass