Michigan’s Motors (1996)
THOMAS C. DUFFY
Commissioned by Michigan School District #8, this piece pays tribute to the 100th year of the automobile industry. This humorous four-movement vignette tracks through its pervasive motor rhythms the progress of a colicky carÑfrom the pathetic whine of its cold engine starting, through its race with a train, to its ultimate collision with horses and pedestrians.
The first movement, Cold Starts, is the musical equivalent of an engine being started for the first time on a cold day. After three false starts, the engine finally catches and gradually warms up to a reasonable idle. In Chasing the Train, the running car races a locomotive and zips across the tracks in the nick of time, just missing the train. After the last trainhorn blast, the car motors off in arrogant disinterest and casual calm in the section, Cruisin’. As the driver becomes enamored of the power of the automobile, the drive and the impact of the music builds up to an intense level.
In the final movement, “Auto” Parts, the ancient compositional technique of soggeto cavato (carved subject) is used in this section to create musical melodies from the names of three car manufacturersÐFord, Dodge, and Cadillac (for example, F=as in the pitch F, O as in sol = G, R as in re = D, and D as in do = C).
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