Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Saturday, April 20

Biblical Torke

Synopsis

Religious music, like the religious experience itself, comes in all shapes, forms, moods, and colors.

On today’s date in the year 2002, for example, this setting of the Song of Isaiah had its premiere performance at the Milwaukee Art Museum during a concert by the Present Music ensemble. The composer of the new setting was a native of Milwaukee named Michael Torke, who writes:

“I have always considered that a central religious experience is one of uplifting joy, as opposed to other spiritual expressions of pleading, suffering, atonement, or wrath. It is that state of joy and thanksgiving I am trying to express.”

Song of Isaiah was commissioned for Present Music's 20th anniversary, and to honor the Archbishop Rembert Weakland. The piece is scored for a singer, clarinet, bass clarinet, string quintet, piano, vibraphone, and a percussionist who plays the rhythmic underpinning with a tambourine, claves, and in the center of the piece, a triangle.

“This spirited rhythm,” writes Torke, “embodies slower embedded forms that are etched out melodically by the clarinets in octaves, and also by the strings and piano in octaves. In essence, there are no climaxes, as I wish the music to be a meditation, though the feeling is quite lively. Nine sections of the piece serve as episodic variations, and explore different small chunks of text from the Book of Isaiah. The form is a mirror: the first and ninth sections relate, as do the second and eighth, and so on; the fifth section (using the triangle) is in the exact center.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Michael Torke (b. 1961) Song of Isaiah Present Music innova 590

Additional Information

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