Time Machine (composition)

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Time Machine for Three Conductors and Orchestra is a two-movement orchestral composition by the American composer Michael Daugherty. The piece was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and premiered November 24, 2003, with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra led by the conductors Mariss Jansons, Lucas Richman, and Edward Cumming. [1] [2]

Orchestra large instrumental ensemble

An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which mixes instruments from different families, including bowed string instruments such as violin, viola, cello, and double bass, as well as brass, woodwinds, and percussion instruments, each grouped in sections. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes appear in a fifth keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and, for performances of some modern compositions, electronic instruments.

Michael Daugherty American composer, pianist, and teacher

Michael Kevin Daugherty is an American composer, pianist, and teacher. He is influenced by popular culture, Romanticism, and Postmodernism, and is one of the most widely performed American concert music composers of his generation. Daugherty's notable works include his Superman comic book-inspired Metropolis Symphony for Orchestra (1988–93), Dead Elvis for Solo Bassoon and Chamber Ensemble (1993), Jackie O (1997), Niagara Falls for Symphonic Band (1997), UFO for Solo Percussion and Orchestra (1999) and for Symphonic Band (2000), Bells for Stokowski from Philadelphia Stories for Orchestra (2001) and for Symphonic Band (2002), Fire and Blood for Solo Violin and Orchestra (2003) inspired by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Time Machine for Three Conductors and Orchestra (2003), Ghost Ranch for Orchestra (2005), Deus ex Machina for Piano and Orchestra (2007), Labyrinth of Love for Soprano and Chamber Winds (2012), American Gothic for Orchestra (2013), and Tales of Hemingway for Cello and Orchestra (2015). Daugherty has been described by The Times (London) as "a master icon maker" with a "maverick imagination, fearless structural sense and meticulous ear."

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra American orchestra based in Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) is an American orchestra based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The orchestra's home is Heinz Hall, located in Pittsburgh's Cultural District.


Style and composition

The piece has a duration of roughly twenty minutes and is divided into two movements:

A movement is a self-contained part of a musical composition or musical form. While individual or selected movements from a composition are sometimes performed separately, a performance of the complete work requires all the movements to be performed in succession. A movement is a section, "a major structural unit perceived as the result of the coincidence of relatively large numbers of structural phenomena".

A unit of a larger work that may stand by itself as a complete composition. Such divisions are usually self-contained. Most often the sequence of movements is arranged fast-slow-fast or in some other order that provides contrast.

  1. Past
  2. Future

To perform Time Machine, a standard symphony orchestra must be divided into three separate ensembles and led by three conductors simultaneously. Rhythm, tempo, and time signature are frequently juxtaposed between the three ensembles, resulting in often antiphonal and polymetric sounds. [1] Daugherty described the piece in the score program note, writing:

Rhythm aspect of music

Rhythm generally means a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions". This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time can apply to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or frequency of anything from microseconds to several seconds ; to several minutes or hours, or, at the most extreme, even over many years.

In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. In classical music, tempo is typically indicated with an instruction at the start of a piece and is usually measured in beats per minute. In modern classical compositions, a "metronome mark" in beats per minute may supplement or replace the normal tempo marking, while in modern genres like electronic dance music, tempo will typically simply be stated in bpm.

The time signature is a notational convention used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats (pulses) are contained in each measure (bar), and which note value is equivalent to a beat.

Time Machine is an adventure in rhythm, sound and space for three conductors and orchestra. Twenty minutes in length, my composition is divided into two movements entitled "Past" and "Future." By dividing the orchestra into three spatially separated orchestras, I represent the three dimensions of space: forward-backward; left-right; up-down. Orchestra I is located stage right, Orchestra II is located stage left and Orchestra III is located center stage. Because I have composed music where multiple tempos and meters occur simultaneously in the three orchestras, three conductors are required. When the three orchestras play simultaneously, they create a three-dimensional music that makes it possible to travel through the fourth dimension of time. [1]

In a pre-premiere interview about the piece, Daugherty convivially added, "It is not a particularly practical idea. I saw it as a challenge. Part of being new is to look at musical expression and to discover new things. Part of what avant-garde music is all about is doing something you are not supposed to do — forbidden music." [2]

Avant-garde music is music that is considered to be at the forefront of experimentation or innovation in its field, with the term "avant-garde" implying a critique of existing aesthetic conventions, rejection of the status quo in favor of unique or original elements, and the idea of deliberately challenging or alienating audiences.


The work is scored an orchestra comprising for four flutes (fourth doubling piccolo), two oboes, cor anglais, three clarinets (third doubling E-flat clarinet), bass clarinet, four bassoons (fourth doubling contrabassoon), four French horns, four trumpets, three trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, five percussionists, harp, and strings. [1]

Western concert flute transverse woodwind instrument made of metal or wood

The Western concert flute is a transverse (side-blown) woodwind instrument made of metal or wood. It is the most common variant of the flute. A musician who plays the flute is called a flautist, flutist, flute player, or (rarely) fluter.

Piccolo small flute musical instrument

The piccolo is a half-size flute, and a member of the woodwind family of musical instruments. The modern piccolo has most of the same fingerings as its larger sibling, the standard transverse flute, but the sound it produces is an octave higher than written. This gave rise to the name ottavino, which the instrument is called in the scores of Italian composers. It is also called flauto piccolo or flautino.

Oboe musical instrument of the woodwind family

Oboes are a family of double reed woodwind instruments. The most common oboe plays in the treble or soprano range. Oboes are usually made of wood, but there are also oboes made of synthetic materials. A soprano oboe measures roughly 65 cm long, with metal keys, a conical bore and a flared bell. Sound is produced by blowing into the reed at a sufficient air pressure, causing it to vibrate with the air column. The distinctive tone is versatile and has been described as "bright". When oboe is used alone, it is generally taken to mean the treble instrument rather than other instruments of the family, such as the bass oboe, the cor anglais, or oboe d'amore


Alex Chilvers of Limelight called Time Machine "an interesting concept" and "dramatic and never dull." [3] Mark Estren of The Washington Post praised the work as "blar[ing] along just wonderfully, from a sonic point of view, providing an effective contrast between 'Past' and 'Future'." [4]

<i>Limelight</i> (magazine) magazine

Limelight is an Australian monthly classical music and arts magazine based in Sydney. Founded in January 1976, the magazine was originally published under the name ABC Radio 24 Hours, or simply 24 Hours, and relaunched as Limelight in June 2003.

<i>The Washington Post</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper published in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Post is a major American daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C., with a particular emphasis on national politics and the federal government. It has the largest circulation in the Washington metropolitan area. Its slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness" began appearing on its masthead in 2017. Daily broadsheet editions are printed for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.


A recording of Time Machine was released January 4, 2011, through Naxos Records on a compilation album also featuring Daugherty's other orchestral works Route 66 , Ghost Ranch , and Sunset Strip . To perform the work, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra was led by conductors Marin Alsop, Mei-Ann Chen, and Laura Jackson. [4]

See also

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Bells for Stokowski for Orchestra and for Symphonic Band by American composer Michael Daugherty, is a 14-minute, single-movement tribute to one of the most prominent 20th century conductors, Leopold Stokowski. Bells for Stokowski for Orchestra (2001) stands alone as a concert piece, however, it is also the last movement of the three-movement work, Philadelphia Stories. Philadelphia Stories was commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra in celebration of the Orchestra's centennial under the direction of Wolfgang Sawallisch. The premiere was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, under the direction of David Zinman, in November 2001.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Daugherty, Michael (2003). "Time Machine for Three Conductors and Orchestra". Boosey & Hawkes . Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  2. 1 2 Druckenbrod, Andrew (November 28, 2003). "Music Preview: 'Time Machine' gets three batons swinging". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette . Retrieved February 1, 2016.
  3. Chilvers, Alex (April 5, 2011). "Daugherty: Route 66, Ghost Ranch, Sunset Strip, Time Machine (Bournemouth SO/Alsop)". Limelight . Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  4. 1 2 Estren, Mark (February 20, 2011). "Marin Alsop conducts four works of Michael Daugherty in crowd-pleasing recording". The Washington Post . Retrieved January 30, 2015.