Music from Underground Spaces

$ 55.00

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: 14'


Few opportunities drop as rarely onto a composer's desk as the chance to work with a stunning orchestra right around the corner. In dreaming up what to create for The California Symphony, I found myself considering, very literally, the common ground that unites us here in the East Bay. Beneath us runs the Hayward Fault, which seemed especially restless last summer as I mapped out the work. A visit to the Berkeley Seismology Laboratory brought me into contact with the beautiful and eerie earthquakes recordings processed by Peggy Hellweg, and before long I had a runaway idea.

Music From Underground Spaces marries orchestra and electronics to vividly conjure up a variety of underground worlds. We begin with "Tunnels," where subways roar past kaleidoscopic orchestral figuration. As the work delves deeper in each movement, the propulsive motives and driving techno rhythms of the opening become gradually stretched out. Indeed, the unusual trajectory of this work takes us from blurry activity to slow-motion ambience.

The fleeting textures of "Tunnels" morph into the surreal effects of "Infernos," where a demonic techno groove, paired with flickering figuration, moves the work into one hell of a nightclub. The cultish tension accumulates until all this pressure forges "Crystalline Cities" - a kind of euphoric limbo, where sudden crescendos fuse into sparkling bits of diamond and crystal. Featuring the orchestra alone, this slow-motion, sparkling netherworld finally gives way to the glacial textures of "Tectonic Plates." Initially eerie, this final movement explores primarily the beautiful possibilities of the subsonic. The lowest members of the orchestra trade sonorities like slow-motion sea swells, with the ghostly earthquake recordings sounding like the gentle creaking of a boat.

Many thanks to Barry Jekowski and the musicians for their dedication in bringing this work to life.


2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo)
2 oboes (2nd doubling English Horn)
2 Bb clarinets (2nd doubling bass clarinet)
2 bassoons (2nd doubling contrabassoon)
4 horns in F
3 C trumpets (mutes: straight, harmon, solotone)
2 tenor trombones (mutes: straight, harmon)
bass trombone
electronica (see performance notes)
percussion (3 players):
1: marimba, hi hat, splash, bowed crotale
2: vibraphone, tam tams (low, medium & high)
3: sus. cymbals (very high, medium, low), glock, bass drum, xylophone,
timpani, log drum


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.


"Music From Underground Spaces" uses synthesized earthquake sounds -- created by the composer-performer on electronic drum pad and laptop at Thursday's concert -- to punctuate an orchestral evocation of things subterranean. Much of the score is driven by twitching techno-rhythms that periodically morph into quirky aural surprises -- piano, harp and celesta sparkling like a city of diamonds, double basses shuddering like the shock waves from a temblor deep on the ocean floor.” — Chicago Tribune