Daniel Temkin

Daniel Temkin is one the most promising new American composers. His musical training  has been outstanding: Rutgers University, New England Conservatory, the Curtis Institute of Music, Le Conservatoire Americain de Fontainebleau, and he is currently completing his doctorate at the University of Southern California. His main interest as a performer has been as a percussionist. He credits this experience with his love of musical color and rhythmic inflections, which began at a young age.  He played percussion in school bands starting at age 11; by age 12, he was playing in rock bands.

However, when he played in a Youth Orchestra performing the Finale of Tchaikovsky’s Second Symphony as a percussionist, he was overwhelmed with “a moment of excitement… I discovered on that day that sound, ringing out with kinetic energy could be alive.”  He was especially intrigued with resonance: the experience of a sound continuing after it has been played. “ My hunger for orchestral music grew as I began regularly attending the Philadelphia Orchestra concerts and spending my summers performing at the Aspen Music Festival. “

As a composer, he has been fascinated about the concept of resonance, and how this  an be maximized and influential in his orchestration.  As years have passed, he has reflected that for him resonance was a principal driving factor in music. “My musical life has always centered on resonance and on the specific goal of making sound come alive with a palpable ‘ring to it’ matter which stylistic turns my own music may take in the coming years, resonance will always reign supreme.”

Mr. Temkin has graciously submitted the following notes for this concert:

Cataclysm was written in 2013-14 for the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic, and it was premiered in Glinka Hall, St. Petersburg.  Although designed to work as a stand alone piece, it is also the final movement of my larger suite From Distant Dreams (2013-14), which received its premiere with the USC Thornton Symphony in October 2014. Both Cataclysm and the larger suite try to engage ideas of dream states and surrealism. I can’t speak for everyone else, but when I dream, disparate elements from real life and fantasy often show up side by side, and somehow I go along for the ride no matter how surprising and bizarre things get.  I was interested in composing a piece which would capture this sense of juxtaposition, surprise, and murkiness (that foggy, jet-laggy, dream sense) in Cataclysm. Music, being a temporal medium, seemed an especially good way to capture the sort of ‘suspended reality’ of a dream.  As for the music, I imagined the opening chords as a kind of fog that hover over the piece, both at the beginning and in the middle; meanwhile, the faster music with the murmuring strings is meant to lull us into an edgy but somewhat predictable mood, so that when the brass and percussion jump into the textures, they really shock and surprise.  I didn’t have any specific models from outside disciplines, but the closest analogy I can think of is Salvador Dali paintings: his use of juxtaposition, distortion, and contrast in subject material (e.g. a giant clock in the middle of a desert) creates a bizarre and compelling melding of the familiar and the distorted/unexpected.  The climax of Cataclysm happens at the end (with the bell tree ringing violently like a fire alarm bell).  Here, I imagined the sort wild and spooky energy of a nightmare being channeled and harnessed into something more exciting and positive—a transformation, leading to a final, triumphant, ending.”

This is the first ISO performance of Cataclysm. Daniel Tempkin has been selected as the 2016 Marilyn K. Glick Young Composer Award Winner.

© Marianne Williams Tobias, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, 2016

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Program Notes