for orchestra (2006)

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10 min.



Program Notes

Monster opens with a huge, slow-motion chorale accompanied by an intense percussion polyrhythm. The power of the opening is disrupted by a series of rough, highly rhythmic grooves. Rhythmic fragments flash back and forth from within the texture. This texture gives way to a persistent, comic ostinato in the bassoons. The piece erupts into an intense single-voice tutti toccata based on the bassoon ostinato. The sound of this toccata is based on organ registration, with shifting timbres and ever-present organum. The effect is like an enormous organ pulling out stops until it explodes into a muscular percussion break. While drums dominate, the tutti orchestral ensemble is also used as an additional percussion instrument. The break gives way to bursts of pp woodwind flurries. These flurries evolve into tutti scurries throughout the range of the entire orchestra. This builds to a giant restatement of the opening chorale with an intense percussion groove. This in turn culminates in a giant fff tutti trill.

The trill evaporates into the misty second section of the work. A high harmonics ostinato in the violins accompanies soulful melodies in the low strings. Woodwind fluttertongues and an arpeggiated flurry briefly disturb the placid texture. To this sound is added percussion metals all arco (with bows). This sound field, consisting of overlapping strings playing harmonics arpeggios, gives a glistening, sparkling sheen. The monster slowly recedes into blissful nothing.

Justin Merritt Music

Composer Justin Merritt was the youngest-ever winner of the ASCAP Foundation Rudolph Nissim Award. He is also the winner of a host of other awards including the McKnight Fellowship, the Copland Award, and the Polyphonos Prize. His music has been played by the Minnesota Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and on A Prairie Home Companion.

His evening length cantata, The Path, was premiered at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in April 2018. The work is a setting of a collection of Buddhist Pali scriptures translated by the composer and set for multiple choirs, soloists, and large orchestra.

He received his Bachelors from Trinity University and his Masters and Doctorate from Indiana University. He studied composition with Samuel Adler, Sven-David Sandstrom, Claude Baker, Timothy Kramer, Don Freund, and electronic and computer music with Jeffrey Hass. He is currently Professor and Chair of Music at St. Olaf College. He resides in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Faye and their children Cullen Fang Ouxiang and Molly Fang Qinghe.

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