Commissioned by the Savannah Wind Symphony,
Mark B. Johnson, principal conductor & music director.
This composition was made possible through the generous grant
of the Savannah Orchestral Music Fund, Savannah, Georgia
SHINE is a programmatic work that centers around the prohibition era. Back wood stills and liquor running jalopies are a part of our American heritage. Many a legitimate distillery have a history in bootlegging and NASCAR of course was born out of moonshine running souped up cars. America is a country of immigrants and every immigrant who comes here brings their music and instruments with them. What we call bluegrass music today represents that Irish and Scottish fok music “sound.” The folk music of the American hill people, the Appalachians, Smoky Mountains stretching from the south to the north gave birth to not only our bluegrass but to several instruments as well. Banjos, fiddles, dulcimers autoharps, jaw or jews harp, the jug, mandolins, guitars and several other instruments became our folk instruments; some instruments that existed before, some we invented. There is only one problem... none of those instruments are normal instrumentation for symphonic bands.
I wanted to capture the imagination of an audience with as much bluegrass flavor as I could without having to score for the actual instruments. Double reeds, muted brass, combinations of low winds with other instruments all captured a lot of that visceral essence. Using washboards and special mallets in the percussion helped too. The 16th notes followed by dotted eighth rhythms and vice versa so prevalent in Scottish and Irish music is also the backbone of bluegrass music.
Moonshine is a big part of our countries past and many today still earn a living making and selling legal and illegal white lighting. I will admit I sampled many different types and flavors of moonshine while I was composing this work. Some I bought in a store, some well, not exactly. My opinion of moonshine has not changed. I still don't care for it. When I close my eyes and listen to Moonshine I can see those stills far back in the woods, hear those tires spinning out in gravel as they tear down country roads and I can feel the burn of moonshine not just down my throat but in my soul. I hope as you listen to this back road American heartbeat, you can see it, live it too.