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About this Piece

Michael Daugherty first came to international attention when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Zinman, performed his Metropolis Symphony at Carnegie Hall in 1994. Since that time, Daugherty’s music has entered the orchestral, band, and chamber music repertory and made him, according to the League of American Orchestras, one of the ten most performed living American composers. In 2011, the Nashville Symphony’s Naxos recording of Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony and Deus ex Machina was honored with three Grammys, including Best Classical Contemporary Composition (for Deus ex Machina).

Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Daugherty is the son of a dance-band drummer and the oldest of five brothers, all professional musicians. He studied music composition at the University of North Texas (1972-1976), the Manhattan School of Music (1976-1978), and computer music at IRCAM in Paris (1979-1980). Daugherty received his doctorate from Yale University in 1986, where his teachers included Jacob Druckman, Earle Brown, Roger Reynolds, and Bernard Rands. During this time, he also collaborated with jazz arranger Gil Evans in New York, and pursued further studies with composer György Ligeti in Hamburg, Germany (1982-1984). After teaching music composition from 1986-1990 at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Daugherty joined the School of Music at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) in 1991, where he is Professor of Composition and a mentor to many of today’s most talented young composers. The composer provided the following note:

“Lost Vegas (2011) was commissioned by the University of Michigan Symphony Band, Michael Haithcock, conductor, and the University of Miami Wind Ensemble, Gary Green, conductor. Lost Vegas is my musical homage to bygone days, when enormous neon signs punctuated the Las Vegas “Strip” promoting casinos and hotels ruled by Mafia “goodfellas” and massive marquees trumpeted performances by legendary pop music legends such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis. Performed without pause, Lost Vegas is divided into three movements.

“The first movement, Viva, is inspired by the seminal book Learning from Las Vegas, by modernist architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, who likened the symbolism of the Vegas “Strip” to the Piazza Navona in Rome. The music in Viva unfolds as catchy musical riffs are layered and phased in various polytonal guises and orchestrations.

“Mirage, the second movement, was inspired by a recent drive through the forbidding desert of Death Valley. Located 88 miles west of Las Vegas, Death Valley features the lowest, driest, and hottest locations in North America, with temperatures reaching 134 degrees. A serpentine oboe solo, later doubled by trumpets with Harmon mutes, is surrounded by steamy brass chords and twisting countermelodies played by winds and percussion keyboards. Punctuated by an ominous bass drum, the music in Mirage appears and disappears, like an optical illusion one might encounter in the scorching desert.

“The final movement, Fever, is a swinging, musical homage to a long-gone epoch, when Frank Sinatra and his ‘Rat Pack’ performed in intimate and swanky showrooms of the Sands, Tropicana, and Flamingo hotels.”

Support for this commission was provided by the University of Michigan’s H. Robert Reynolds Commissioning Fund.

— Notes supplied by the University of Michigan