Tightrope Walker

(High Wire Act for Orchestra)

Michael Boyman

Performing Ensemble: Orchestra
Duration: 8:00
Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

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Boyman: Tightrope Walker

Quick Overview

Tightrope Walker is my first piece for full orchestra. Given the large forces available to me, I wanted to write something exciting, colorful and visceral. I remembered back to when I was a kid going to see the Cirque du Soleil. That trip made a big impression on me, especially the high wire performers. These were artists performing super-human feats high in the air, where even the slightest mistake guaranteed a fatal ending. This idea of danger, of risking one’s life to entertain an audience has stayed with me, and Tightrope Walker is my attempt at recreating that special childhood experience.

The opening of the piece hints at what's to come - a steady, walking pulse interrupted by missteps in the woodwinds. These missteps increase until the entire orchestra comes crashing down - not a good sign for our Tightrope Walker. The tempo slows and the atmosphere becomes tense. The primary themes of the piece are presented in fragments, most notably the Tightrope Walker's theme in the horns. The orchestra gradually recovers from the previous fall, becoming more lively and coherent until the original, faster tempo is restored.

We are now at the circus, excited and expectant, and the fragmentary themes heard previously are now presented in their full forms. The anticipation builds until we hear a solo drum roll - the main act is about to begin. The second half of the piece depicts the Tightrope Walker performing for his audience. But from the outset, as in the beginning of the piece, we hear there are problems. The pressure mounts, the audience clamoring for more, until Tightrope Walker comes to a decisive and potentially fatal end.

--Michael Boyman

Additional Information

Composition Date 2014, rev. 2016
Orchestration 3(3rd dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
Premiere Premiered by David Gilbert and the Manhattan School of Music Symphony on February 3rd, 2014.

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