The band from Westlake High School asked for new music based on the famous children's book, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. While Max The King! is not a literal translation of the book into music, the general progress of the music is suggested by the antics of Max, the problem (normal?) child and king of the wild things.
The piece begins with a regal fanfare, rhythmically equivalent to the flourish that accompanies any presidential appearance (Hail to the Chief). The harmony, however, is somewhat more complicated, being constructed of intervals of the tritone, the minor third (from the octatonic scale's main chord of the full diminished seventh), perfect fourths, and augmented chords (from the whole-tone scale). The frenetic activity and tantrums of the young boy are represented by whirling woodwind passages and brass punctuations. Throughout the opening section, one hears the familiar children's taunt of Na, na,na, na, na, na, set for a variety of instrumental colors and with different technical requirements each time. Tantrum #1 presents with brass punctuations, swirling woodwinds, timpani glissandi (designed to represent a young child bouncing on the bed or couch) and percussion add a glorious clatter of pots and pans (the youngster has decided to find amusement in the kitchen cabinet?). The tantrum grows, and ends with a spill of some sort (marbles into metal pail). The youngster tires a bit or perhaps, anticipating parental reaction, calms down slightly, but gives way to youthful impulse and inevitable punishment (go to your room!). After a knock on the bedroom door, there is a lecture from Mom (piccolo); the youngster responds - Yes , mom. However, as happens with children, there is one more episode of misbehavior!. Then comes the lecture from Dad (petulant trumpet). Obviously defeated and exiled to the bedroom for the evening, the youngster has the final tantrum and, after hopping around, heads for the bedroom, gloomily accepting the punishment with one final "Yes, Dad"
The youngster falls asleep and has wonderful dreams- a garden springs up in the room ; there is a journey to a far-off fantasy land in a boat (yes, you do hear the strains of a "sideways" version of Flying Dutchman); and the first of the beasts in the imaginary land appears. The beasts have their tantrums, but are soothed and entranced by the youngster. Having prevailed (having become the parent figure in the dream!), the youngster then calls for a Bacchanalian dance, and off they go in a whirling festival of roars, growls, and wonderfully dissonant child/monster noise. The youngster's revelry is broken by the sound of a dinner triangle and the childlike motives begin to reappear within the bestial setting. Gradually, the youngster returns (from sleep) to reality, having had this wonderful fantasy. The now-calm and subdued child-motive can heard with an accompaniment of a roar here and there (the fantasy is over but not forgotten), and, as a now-faded monster quietly squeals a final fanfare or two, the child-motive is set so as to indicate contentment, or is it capitulation? Lest the situation seem too unreal, the final two measures allow for the imp in the youngster to surface, a quick na, na, na, na, na, na - and a final roar-promising that this episode of quiet is only temporary; the beast is only resting.
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