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About this Piece

Ingram Marshall lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1973 to 1985 and in Washington State, where he taught at Evergreen State College until 1989; his current base is Connecticut. He studied at Columbia University and California Institute of the Arts, and has been a student of Indonesian gamelan music, the influence of which may be heard in the slowed-down sense of time and use of melodic repetition found in many of his pieces. His music has been performed by ensembles and orchestras such as the Kronos Quartet, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, and the St. Louis Symphony. Recent collaborations have been with Stuart Pimsler Dance Theater, and with Paul Hillier and The Theater of Voices, for whom he has written a new work, Hymnodic Delays. The composer has written the following note:

“Fog Tropes was composed in San Francisco in 1981 at the behest of John Adams, who was then organizing a concert series for the San Francisco Symphony called “New and Unusual Music.” A few years earlier I had put together a tape piece called simply “Fog” which used ambient sounds from around the San Francisco Bay. That ten-minute piece became the underlying “bed” for the live instrumental parts (six brass instruments, amplified and slightly reverberated).

“Its first performance was in the Japan Center Theater on one of those ground-breaking programs which Adams organized as the first composer-in-residence with the San Francisco Symphony, although the players were actually students from the San Francisco Conservatory. A few years later, the Symphony proper performed it on their regular subscription concerts, Edo de Waart conducting. It has been performed many times all over the world in spaces ranging from concert halls to churches, state capitol domes, and even a slow moving river barge.

“Two recordings have been made, both with Adams conducting; the first is on New Albion Records, the second on Nonesuch.

“The tape part not only uses maritime sounds for its constructive materials but vocal keenings and the unique sound of the Balinese gambuh, a long bamboo flute. Although the brass parts and tape sounds are distinct from one another there is an attempt to blend them so as to create a harmonious whole.

“In the opening minute only the tape sounds are heard and then the horns begin their intertwining eighth notes of ascending twirls, which become more intense as the piece progresses. Trombones arrive underneath and the first cry-like utterances of the trumpets appear on top. The basic sound world of the piece is established. Mid way through the piece a series of chordal ladders create a climatic feeling as the lowest fog horns become more assertive. This harmonic progression reappears at the end but in a more wistful, restrained manner.

“Many people are reminded of the San Francisco Bay when they hear this music but for me it is a piece about memory and the feeling of being lost.”