Hallelujah Junction, for two pianos
Note by the composer:
Hallelujah Junction was written at the request of Grant Gershon and Gloria Cheng, two musicians with whom I have had a long and fruitful history. When they asked me to compose a "short" piece for a special concert at the Getty Museum in 1998 I simply could not decline.
Hallelujah Junction is a tiny truck stop on Route 49 on the Nevada-California border, not far from where I have a small mountain cabin. One can only speculate on its beginnings in the era of prospectors and Gold Rush speculators (although a recent visit revealed that cappucino is now available there). Here we have a case of a great title looking for a piece. So now the piece finally exists: the 'junction' being the interlocking style of two-piano writing which features short, highly rhythmicized motives bouncing back and forth between the two pianos in tightly phased sequences. This is a technique I first used in the 1982 Grand Pianola Music and later expanded in orchestral pieces.
The "hallelujah" is for another Los Angeles friend: Ernest Fleischmann. Like many composers, conductors, and performers, I have benefitted immeasurably over the years by Ernest's friendship and by his unflagging advocacy. As we all think back over the extraordinary tenure of his service as managing director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, "hallelujah" seems to be the only appropriate word. We all owe him a debt of deep gratitude.
Hallelujah Junction lasts approximately fifteen minutes and is in four parts, linked one to the other. The first section begins with a short, exclamatory three-note figure which I think of as "-lelujah" (without the opening "Hal-"). This energized, bright gesture grows in length and breadth and eventually gives way to a long, multifaceted "groove" section.
A second, more relaxed part is more reflective and is characterized by waves of triplet chord clusters ascending out of the lowest ranges of the keyboard and cresting at their peak like breakers on a beach.
A short transitional passage uses tightly interlocking phase patterns to move the music into a more active ambience and sets up the final part. In this finale, the "hallelujah chorus" kicks in at full tilt. The ghost of Conlon Nancarrow goes head to head with a Nevada cathouse pianola.