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A Thousand Natural Shocks

    3*2*2*2  4*3*3*1 Timpani (5 drums), 2 Perc: Perc. 1: large bass drum, *3 suspended cymbals (med., med. high, high — all higher than perc.2), snare drum, xylophone, brass wind chimes, crotales (bowed), **2 drums Tomtoms or similar). Perc. 2: snare drum, g

    Duration: ca. 10 minutes
    Composed: 2000

    Programme Note: A Thousand Natural Shocks was commissioned by the CBC at the request of Bramwell Tovey, for the occasion of his first concert as music director with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The idea behind the piece is that change and new beginnings can be shocking and stressful, but also full of fantastic challenges that are ultimately as rewarding as they are necessary. The fear and tension of a new experience can quickly melt into thrilling course of action. Whereas Shakespeare had Hamlet wondering what to do when faced with “outrageous Fortune’, Machiavelli proposed that “Fortune favours the impetuous”.

    Musically, I explore these approaches in elements of the orchestration. The piece begins with an extended timpani solo. When the orchestra finally enters, it is a loud, chaotic, tangle of lines in competition with one another.

    Although the majority of the piece is highly charged, fast, and dramatic, an important feature of all my works is the solo voice. These moments focus on the individual voice that can be overwhelmed by the crowd, yet is capable of being heard. In addition to the opening timpani solo, the piece also features extended solos for harp, oboe, flute, and percussion.

    A Thousand Natural Shocks is in one movement and lasts roughly 9’30”. It was written between January and July of this year and is dedicated to Bramwell Tovey with great respect. The title comes from Hamlet’s soliloquy, “To be or not to be…”
    “and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.”

    Premiere: First performance by Bramwell Tovey and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver, September 23 + 25, 2000


    Kelly-Marie Murphy, composer