Stephen Hartke

WILLOW RUN (2016) for Saxophone and 9 Players Duration: 12 Minutes Instrumentation Alto Saxophone (doubling Baritone Saxophone), English Horn, Clarinet in B-flat, Flugelhorn in B-flat, 3 Percussionists (2 Vibraphones, Tamtam, Almglocken, 4 Crotales, Anvil, Brake Drum, Truck Spring, Medium and Low Steel Pipes, 2 Congas, 2 Low Log Drums, 3 Cowbells, 2 Temple Blocks, 2 Bongos, Tambourine, Small Wood Block, Bass Drum, Ratchet, Small Cuica, Sand Blocks, Guiro, Castanets), Harp, 2 Doublebasses. Willow Run is the name of both a small stream near Detroit, Michigan, and the site of a World War II bomber factory designed by the great industrial architect, Albert Kahn.  On the eve of its demolition in late 2015, his granddaughter, the photographer Ernestine Ruben, visited the building not only to document it in hundreds of pictures, but also to take the raw material of these images and transform them into a narrative of birth, death, and rebirth.  With the help of saxophonist Noah Getz, she then sought me out to compose a large ensemble piece that would reflect in its own way on this sequence of images, both realistic and recomposed through layering.  The final step in the project was the creation of a film by videographer Seth Bernstein using Ernestine’s images with my score serving as the main structural determinant. My piece seeks at its outset to evoke the vastness of the structure itself, which, in its time was the largest single space enclosed under one roof.  Then there are more topical references -- the Morse Code rhythm for the words “Willow Run” appear, as well as Ernestine’s and mine.  In a later section, three arrays of unpitched percussion suggest the echoes of the factory’s assembly line as the saxophone progresses through the musical landscape.  The ending evokes the resonances of this enormous space with bright flourishes from the winds and a pair of vibraphones over slowly oscillating mechanical figures in the basses.

Willow Run

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