The Miracle Mile (1995)
THOMAS C. DUFFY
“The Miracle Mile” is that stretch of road in Frankfort, Kentucky, that houses many churches, churches of all denominations. Imagine the aural collage that could result from positioning oneself at a spot on that road where the sounds of hymns, organs, and bells from many churches all overlapped and intertwined with each other. Better, imagine driving down that road, with the car radio on and the window down. The Miracle Mile is the tone poem of just such a driveÑwindow down, engine purring, and radio on.
The piece begins with driving sounds: the percussion section is the engine, the other musicians provide ostinati to represent the repetitive mechanical sounds of a car. The flavor of this section reflects a taste of pop music, perhaps from the car radio.
The car passes a Catholic church, and the Vatican gradual Subvenite begins to infiltrate the noise of the car engine. Eventually the hymn takes over and the car stops, acquiescing to the chant. The driver proceeds on foot; upon reaching a point halfway between the Catholic and Episcopalian churches, the Episcopalian hymn, The Holy Trinity, intertwines with the Catholic chant. The pedestrian moves on; The Holy Trinity swells to the foreground. The walker turns the corner, smack-dab into a Baptist ceremony. Water sounds and gentle waves (baptism) accompany bell and brass renditions of When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.
The next phase of the sojourn brings the listener within earshot of the Presbyterian/Methodist hymn, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today. The sounds of bells accompany this hymn, but the sounds of the bells are now in the brass instruments, a gentle carryover from the Baptist ceremony. Bell sounds travel up to the woodwinds as the listener moves on past an African Methodist Episcopal service and its distinctive gospel-sounding Precious Lord Take My Hand.
All the while, other churches are still contributing material to the aural panorama. The discerning listener can hear strains of Amazing Grace intertwined with the AME hymn. Ultimately, all of the forces come together to gently conclude with the traditional plagal cadence Amen and a final toll of the church bell.
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