Week 9 – Contemporary Chaos!
Composer: John Adams (1947 - )
Title: Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Genre: Orchestral Fanfare
Short Ride in a Fast Machine was composed in 1986 by 20th-century American composer John Adams, who is still alive today. A fanfare is something that grabs people’s attention. It is often a loud piece, and usually played by brass instruments. The music is written for a large orchestra, including many different types of percussion instruments. Throughout the 20th century, percussion instruments were used more and more in classical music, and these instruments often provided the foundation of the piece.
John Adams is a minimalist composer. This means that he wrote music that involved lots of repeated patterns, so the same rhythm over and over again, or the same few notes. He builds these patterns up, one on top of another, using different instruments, to create a complete piece of music. Minimalism is the genre of music used in this piece – it uses repetition and has a steady beat throughout. When writing this music, John Adams commented "You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn't?"
The Music Today:
This piece of music was written for an American orchestra to play at a big music festival called the ‘Great Woods Festival’. It has since been performed at the BBC Proms on two occasions in 2004 and 2014.
Things to do:
- Listen to the beginning, how many times does the wood block play a note before the other instruments join in?
- During the piece the music uses a lot of percussion instruments, like drums. Can you name any other percussion instruments?
- At 1.52 you can hear one low instrument in the string family and one in the brass family. Do you know what these are?
- This music is based on driving around in a fast car. Which type of car does it remind you of? Can you draw a picture of the car that is in your mind?
- Imagine you are driving around in this fast car. What images do you think would be flying past the window? Are you driving in a city or the countryside? What in the music helps to create these images?
You can find and listen to the piece of music on YouTube.
- Miss Rakowski, Head of Primary Music