Liquid Interface

$ 100.00

A "Water Symphony" for orchestra. - Proceed to purchase if you would like to buy a study score.  

Conductor's Score and Performance Parts for RENTAL ONLY. Please send an email to to request a rental application form.

Approximate Duration: 25'


Water has influenced countless musical endeavors - La Mer and Siegfried's Rhine Journey quickly come to mind - but it was only after living on Berlin's enormous Lake Wannsee did I become consumed with a new take on the idea. Over the course of barely two months, I watched this huge body of water transform from an ice sheet thick enough to support sausage venders, to a refreshing swimming destination heavy with humidity. If the play of the waves inspired Debussy, then what about water in its variety of forms?

Liquid Interface moves through all of them, inhabiting an increasingly hotter world in each progressive movement. "Glaciers Calving" opens with huge blocks of sound drifting slowly upwards through the orchestra, finally cracking off in the upper register. (Snippets of actual recordings of glaciers breaking into the Antarctic, supplied by the adventurous radio journalist Daniel Grossman, appear at the opening.) As the thaw continues, these sonic blocks melt into aqueous, blurry figuration. The beats of the electronics evolve from slow trip-hop into energetic drum 'n bass, and at the movement's climax the orchestra blazes in turbulent figuration. The ensuing "Scherzo Liquido" explores water on a micro-level: droplets splash from the speakers in the form of a variety of nimble electronica beats, with the orchestra swirling around them.

The temperature continues to rise as we move into "Crescent City," which examines the destructive force as water grows from the small-scale to the enormous. This is illustrated in a theme and variations form in which the opening melody, at first quiet and lyrical, gradually accumulates a trail of echoing figuration behind it. In a nod to New Orleans, which knows the power of water all too well, the instruments trail the melody in a reimagination of Dixieland swing. As the improvisatory sound of a dozen soloists begins to lose control, verging into big-band territory, the electronics - silent in this movement until now - enter in the form of a distant storm.

At the peak of the movement, with an enormous wake of figuration swirling behind the soaring melody, the orchestra is buried in an electronic hurricane of processed storm sounds. We are swept into the muffled depths of the ocean. This water-covered world, which relaxes into a kind of balmy, greenhouse paradise, is where we end the symphony in "On the Wannsee." A simple, lazy tune bends in the strings above ambient sounds recorded at a dock on Lake Wannsee. Gentle beats echo quietly in the moist heat. At near pianissimo throughout, the melody floats lazily upwards through the humidity and - at the work's end - finally evaporates. Many thanks to Leonard Slatkin, who showed characteristic courage in commissioning this large work, and to the musicians of the National Symphony. Liquid Interface is dedicated to John Corigliano, whose mentorship and friendship helped make this work possible.


3 flutes (all doubling piccolo)
3 oboes (3rd doubling English Horn)
3 Bb clarinets (3rd doubling bass clarinet & Eb clarinet)
3 bassoons (3rd doubling contrabassoon)
4 horns in F
3 C trumpets (mutes: straight, harmon, practice)
2 tenor trombones (mutes: straight, harmon)
bass trombone (mutes: straight, harmon)
electronica (see performance notes)
percussion (3 players)


All that is needed is a laptop, two speakers, placed on the left and right sides of the stage, and a few onstage monitors. Included with the rental of the materials is a download link for a simple software sampler that triggers the sounds from the laptop (an additional percussionist or an assistant conductor simply hits laptop keys at rehearsal numbers). The electronic component is simple, inexpensive, and designed to work within a compressed orchestral rehearsal period, and a 'live' version of the electronic part can be realized when the composer is present.


Nineteenth-century composers of symphonic tone poems relied on instrumental effects to convey a narrative or scene. Contemporary composers can integrate high-definition recordings of sounds they want to evoke, as Mason Bates does in his cleverly constructed Liquid Interface. The first movement, “Glaciers Calving,” begins with an ominous recording of glaciers crashing into the Antarctic Ocean, soon followed by dense, haunting swirls from the strings and electronic beats that accelerate to lively drum and bass rhythms. Mr. Bates’s colorful four-movement tone poem, which uses a vast orchestra and electronics to evoke water in both soothing and menacing forms, received its New York premiere at Carnegie Hall on Thursday with the National Symphony Orchestra (which commissioned it), conducted by Leonard Slatkin.
—Vivien Schweitzer (New York Times)