Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Oklahoma Trails" program notes

Bison, mountain lions, wolves and bats are among the many animals that fill the Oklahoma Trails exhibit at the Oklahoma City Zoo. This gathering of Oklahoma’s native creatures provided the inspiration for this new piece, written for the Edmond Memorial High School String Orchestra.

The violins and violas set the tone with quiet tremolos as the piece begins. Soon, the cellos present the main theme - a reflection on the solemn beauty and wildness found in Oklahoma’s rolling landscapes. The violins take up the melody in a different key as it grows into a sudden acceleration. The different sections trade sixteenth note figures as the theme is developed into a frenzied tremolo.

Pizzicato in the cellos begins the second section of the piece. The violins and violas present a simple motif of rising fifths representing the expansiveness of the Oklahoma plains. This idea is passed around until a new, adventurous theme emerges, and a rising dissonance begins to overwhelm its development. The music soon calms again as soloists from each section lead an introspective transition back into the original theme. An aggressive ostinato figure in the basses begins a final swell into the climactic moments of the piece. Tremolos take us back to the solemnity of the opening as the piece quietly fades to its end.

Special thanks to the young musicians of the Edmond Memorial High School Orchestra for approaching this new piece with a dedication to musicality and open mindedness. Thanks to director David Koehn for his excellent preparation and for asking me to compose a piece for his orchestra. Thanks to the Edmond Arts Council and OPUS, the Edmond Memorial Orchestra's parents association, for commissioning this work and thereby providing a new musical experience for all those involved.


  1. Steven, I'm so excited for you and the students; can't wait to hear it ~Barb