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About this Piece

Composed: 2009
Length: c. 25 minutes
Orchestration: 3 flutes (3rd = piccolo and alto flute), 3 oboes (3rd = English horn), 3 clarinets (3rd = bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (3rd = contrabassoon), 6 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (anvil, crotales, finger cymbals, glockenspiel, bass drum, piccolo snare drum, snare drum, suspended cymbal, tambourine, triangles), celesta, pre-recorded electronics, strings, and solo string quartet
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances (world premiere)

Thomas Newman is widely acclaimed as one of today’s most prominent composers for film. He has composed music for more than 50 motion pictures and television series — such as American Beauty, Shawshank Redemption, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, and Six Feet Under — and has earned ten Academy Award nominations and five Grammy Awards. He is the youngest son of Alfred Newman, the longtime musical director of 20th Century Fox. Newman studied composition and orchestration at USC with Frederick Lesemann and noted film composer David Raksin, and privately with composer George Tremblay. He completed his academic work at Yale University, studying with Jacob Druckman, Bruce MacCombie, and Robert Moore. Newman also gratefully acknowledges the early influence of the legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, who served as a great mentor and champion.

Newman composed the original version of It Got Dark for the Kronos Quartet (which performed it last month on the opening event of the West Coast, Left Coast festival). He subsequently created this version for string quartet and orchestra, commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Newman has written the following note about the piece:

“Venice, California in 1917. A young couple sits in a white rowboat by the bank of a small canal. She is wearing a hat, looking at the squat palm trees across the water. He is looking into the distance, pointing towards a walking bridge behind the boat. But what is he pointing at? And why? The area under the bridge is dreamlike, full of shadows and reflection. The water is clear. The bungalows lining the canal are trim and well tended. There are clouds in the sky, but the day is sunny. Above this scene, in ink, is faded writing. The words are almost unreadable… ‘The pink, I’ve heard, is the ice moss.’ The writer, of course, is referring to the plants lining the south bank of the canal, a moment’s observation from a place now mostly forgotten.

It Got Dark is a result of many years of collecting ephemera — photographs, postcards, recorded interviews — from the areas surrounding my home on the west side of Los Angeles. I always meant to organize them in a way that shed light or cast shadow over what is now vs. what was then, and my unique position of seeing both at once… The feeling I get looking at something and the feeling I wish to evoke through listening. To that end, it is music of loss and memory, much distorted by my interpretations of hope and hopelessness, sorrow and joy.

“This piece includes spoken words of Emil Sandmeier, butler to Will Rogers from 1930 to 1935, and a short poem by Virginia Benton, one of the earliest residents of Santa Monica Canyon.”