Lights Out! (2014)

Duration: 16:00 (18:00 with electronic samples)

Instrumentation: viola and piano (with optional electronic samples)


Lights Out! is the result of my long-time fascination with radio from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. For me, the initial attraction to old time radio was about its instantly recognizable style and atmosphere, from the bombastic show announcers, to the histrionic voice-acting and foley sound effects. But the more I listened, I found myself unable to keep an ironic distance and in spite of the out-dated style, I got wrapped up in the suspense and excitement of this medium. While these shows already contain a lot of music, I felt an irresistible urge to write some of my own. This piece is my love-letter to the golden age of radio. 

Lights Out! is a suite of five movements, each directly inspired by a different sound sample. The first movement was suggested by the introduction to the radio show called Lights Out. The announcer's command, "Lights Out, everybody" and the accompanying tolling bells seemed a fitting introduction to the piece as a whole. The second movement begins with a clip from the detective series "Adventures of Phillip Marlowe." This suggested to me a kind of street-corner nocturne, a bluesy viola solo that develops into a free musical fantasy. The short third movement responds to the adventure series "The Voyage of the Scarlet Queen." The narrator's description of an aging woman in an exotic port of call brought to mind an awkward attempt at a dance of seduction. The fourth movement is a manic scherzo on the jingle from a Cresta Blanca wine commercial. Finally the last movement follows the introduction to "X-minus One" - a science fiction series. The music begins mysteriously, with the viola playing a warbling melody like a theremin. The final section builds to a musical rocket-launch, with both viola and piano frantically pushing higher and higher to break free of gravity's pull.