Sturm und Drang


for percussion ensemble (2010)




9 min.


percussion ensemble

Program Notes

“Sturm und drang” is German for “storm and stress”. It is the name for the late 18th century literary movement that included the early works of Goethe and Schiller. In music, it is most associated with Haydn, but also Mozart and Gluck.

Sturm und drang begins with a very long, slow introduction that combines moody, timbre-based effects with gigantic builds. It is a weird landscape of sound without pulse or direction.

This gives way to a frantic toccata that focuses obsessively on a single, mechanistic line. Although this line throughout is in the keyboard instruments, I treat it like an organist with a giant percussion organ. In particular, I use organ registration techniques to create unexpected color effects by combining instruments in ways that alter the composite spectrum by reinforcing certain overtones. In addition, I use a technique I derived from organ fingering to create the illusion of legato between multiple instruments.

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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