Muir Woods Suite
Length: 35 minutes
Orchestration: flute, oboe, bass clarinet, bassoon (= contrabassoon), 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani, percussion, celeste, harp, strings, and solo bass, drums, percussion, and piano
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance.
This was the hardest thing I've ever done. To think of the amount of music I had to write and orchestrate still gives me a headache. This recording came about as the result of a party at Quincy Jones' home. I had three movements in my sequencer. My manager had spoken to Claude Nobs, of the Montreux Festival, about doing a jazz/orchestral evening featuring this piece. Quincy Jones was having a birthday party for Claude, so I went to celebrate his birthday and give him the tape to listen to at his leisure. Well, Quincy put it on without my knowledge, and it got very quiet at the party as everyone started to listen intently. After the first movement, Claude and Quincy raved that we had to do this at the Festival that year.
So, they commissioned me to finish the piece and debut it at the Festival. Matt Pierson agreed to release it on Warners, and I am very happy to have the Suite documented on CD. I have since performed it with other orchestras with an amazing result.
Each phase, or movement, represents a different aspect of what Muir Woods means to me. I used to camp there as a young boy, and I remember being frightened and in awe of the giant trees and foliage - the sounds - the smells. I tried to bring all this to the Suite.
I desired to write music that developed a true symbiotic relationship between orchestra and small jazz band. Though they begin playing separately, they are totally intertwined by the end of the piece. I even have a swing section for the orchestra, and as musicians know, that is a tall order; but I didn't want my writing to be hampered by the limitations of some men's minds, and the fear of challenging stale attitudes.
- George Duke