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Raise the Roof for Timpani and Orchestra (2003)

Notes by Michael-Thomas Foumai


Michael Daugherty's Raise the Roof was composed in 2003. This year is marked by the launch of the United States-led Iraq invasion and the start of the Iraq War. The destruction of the space shuttle Columbia killed seven astronauts, and Hawaii's state legislature declared 2003 the Year of the Hawaiian Forest. In Honolulu, the teamsters strike against Oahu Transit Services, halted city bus service for a month.



Multiple GRAMMY Award-winning composer Michael Daugherty has achieved international recognition as one of the ten most performed American composers of concert music, according to the League of American Orchestras. His orchestral music, recorded by Naxos over the last two decades, has received six GRAMMY Awards, including Best Contemporary Classical Composition in 2011 for Deus ex Machina for piano and orchestra and in 2017 for Tales of Hemingway for cello and orchestra.


Daugherty was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1954 and is the son of a dance-band drummer and the oldest of five brothers, all professional musicians. As a young man, Daugherty studied composition with many of the preeminent composers of the 20th century including Pierre Boulez at IRCAM in Paris (1979), Jacob Druckman, Earle Brown, Bernard Rands and Roger Reynolds at Yale (1980-82), and György Ligeti in Hamburg (1982-84). Daugherty was also an assistant to jazz arranger Gil Evans in New York from 1980-82. In 1991, Daugherty joined the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance as Professor of Composition, where he is a mentor to many of today’s most talented young composers. (Michael Daugherty Music)


Daugherty’s music draws heavily on themes of Americana, including political and popular culture such as Elvis Presley, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Woody Guthrie, Superman, Vulcans, UFOs, to places such as Route 66, Las Vegas, and Niagara Falls. Daugherty's musical voice fuses popular styles of music with a modernist and avant-garde spin, electrifying orchestras, and bands with dance-fueled rhythms, crisp orchestration, and captivating melodic sensibilities. Daugherty stops short of calling Raise the Roof (2003) a timpani concerto, but it contains all the right ingredients, virtuosic solo writing, cadenzas, and interplay between soloist and orchestra. Timpani presents several challenges for a composer writing a concerto; specifically, the instrument seldom performs a melodic role. But Daugherty cleverly embraces and stretches these traditions and limitations, exploring the instrument's versatility, using it both as a soloist and band member.

Raise the Roof for timpani and orchestra was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for the opening of its Max Fisher Music Center. The world premiere was given by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Neeme Jarvi, with Brian Jones, timpani, at Symphony Hall, Detroit, Michigan on October 16, 2003. The score runs 12 minutes and calls for two flutes, piccolo, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, two trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, three percussion players, piano, and strings.



“Raise the Roof brings the timpani into the orchestral foreground as the foundation of a grand acoustic construction. I have composed music that gives the timpanist the rare opportunity to play long expressive melodies, and a tour de force cadenza. The timpanist uses a wide variety of performance techniques: extensive use of foot pedals for melodic tuning of the drums, placement of a cymbal upside down on the head of the lowest drum to play glissandi rolls, and striking the drums with regular mallets, wire brushes, maraca sticks, and even bare hands.


Another compositional building block in Raise the Roof is a brooding theme reminiscent of a medieval plain chant, first heard in the timpani and the flutes and later in the strings and tuba. This theme is repeated and passed around in canons and fugues and other permutations throughout the orchestra, to create elaborate patterns as in a Gothic cathedral.


I have also composed a lively, pulsating melody for the orchestra combining rock and latin rhythms. The music is a cascade of major and minor triads, like laying down bricks and stones to build up a ‘wall of sound.’ Raise the Roof rises toward a crescendo of polyrhythms and dynamic contrasts, allowing the orchestra to construct a grand new space for performing music of the past, present, and future.”

–Michael Daugherty

© 2020 Michael-Thomas Foumai

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