When I was asked to write this piece for Hudsonville High School, I immediately thought about the school’s location, in western Michigan, near the center of the old Northwest Territory. I had spent many years of my life living and traveling within this part of the Midwest, and feel closely connected to each of the four states that borders Lake Michigan: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.
The first movement, Pastorale, is inspired by the prevalence of wide open farmland that can be found sprawling across the Midwest. Driving across seemingly endless swaths of cornfields and dairy farms puts one in a contemplative mood, and the vastness of the landscape is certainly beautiful. I convey this with open harmonies and a yearning melody that always ends inconclusively.
Indiana may be best known as host to the Indianapolis 500. A monolith to the world of motor sports, the formula 1 cars reach speeds of over 230 miles per hour. This movement calls for players to pluck strings so hard they snap against their instruments and slide their fingers around while rapidly trilling to imitate the sound of race cars zooming by.
During the long midwestern winters, the landscape is transformed from a place of fertility to a bleak but beautiful snowscape. This movement recalls the open harmonies of the first movement, but they are transformed to be colder and less welcoming. An extended violin solo is accompanied by the magical sound of harmonic glissandos.
In the 1920s, a migration of musicians from New Orleans put Chicago on the map as one of the jazz capitals of the world. Perhaps the best known artist to move to Chicago was Louis Armstrong. The Chicago jazz style became distinct from its Dixieland predecessor with its specific use of rhythms and focus on solos. This upbeat movement is a raucous party that comes straight out of the roaring twenties.
Lake Michigan Suite was commissioned by Adam Davis and the Hudsonville High School Orchestras, and is available for performances after May, 2020.
Duration: ca. 13'