Restrung (2018)

Recipient of the 2019 ASCAP Leo Kaplan Award

Premiered by the USC Thornton School Symphony Orchestra

Restrung is one of several pieces over the past couple of years in which I have searched to find a new voice for my string writing. As a composer/violinist, my compositional process usually begins immediately on my violin improvising, starting off in familiar territory with runs from old concertos I’ve played, and much to my neighbors’ dismay, slowly digressing into race car noises, rickety mechanical sounds, shifts, and slides. I have also had the great luxury of bouncing ideas off of fellow violinists and string players to see how certain gestures play under their fingers. Many of these relationships with fellow string players are formed while playing in orchestra together. Often times in orchestra rehearsals I find myself daydreaming about what each member of the section could be doing independently, instead of exclusively blending and staying with the herd all of the time. Don’t get me wrong; being a small part in a greater whole is exhilarating to me. However, I also find that in today’s orchestra, where hundreds of violinists appear for an audition to compete for just one section chair, the audience never has an opportunity to hear each individual voice. Restrung is the beginning of what will hopefully be a longer and more in-depth exploration of presenting the members of the string sections as both section players and soloists. (And there are some racecar noises)

-Tommy Dougherty, 2018

Three Dances for Orchestra (2015)

Recipient of the 2017 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Award

Premiered by the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra

Jerry Hou, conductor

In planning this eight-minute work, I referred to many contemporary examples of concise orchestral works; however, it was a series of pieces from the 19th century that inspired my overall form. Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances were modeled after Johannes Brahms’ famous Hungarian Dances, and their success put Dvorak onto the orchestral map. When I was younger, I repeatedly listened to George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra’s recordings of these sixteen dances. Each dance, anywhere from two to seven minutes, has brilliant orchestral color, exciting rhythmic dissonance, and its own distinct character.

Three Dances for Orchestra begins with a fast, zany, and perhaps even maniacal theme exclaimed by the violins, which serves as the defining feature of the first dance. I fed from the energy of Dvorak’s first dance in B Major (Molto Vivace) from his Op. 72 set, despite our noticeable differences in harmony. My second dance is carried by an ascending passacaglia bass line which was directly taken and manipulated from Dvorak’s second dance in E Minor (Allegretto Grazioso), also Op. 72. The repetitive nature perhaps represents the number of times I would replay the track over and over again. Finally, my third dance begins with a shimmering chord in the string section that gradually cascades into violent tremors, while the rest of the orchestra fuses together the themes from the first two dances. This final dance is a tribute to Dvorak’s (and my own) love for polyrhythms.

Tommy Dougherty, 2016

Three Pieces for Orchestra (2013)

Winner of the Eastman Orchestral Composition Competition

Premiered by the Eastman Philharmonia

Chaowen Ting, conductor

Kodak Hall, February, 2013

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