Instrumentation: Flute, bass clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and piano
Publisher: Boosey and Hawkes, Hendon Music (BMI)
Duration: 5 minutes
World Premiere: October 7, 1998 / 32nd Contemporary Music Festival, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana / Present Music / Kevin Stalheim
Sinatra Shag was commissioned and premiered on October 7, 1998, by Present Music, conducted by Kevin Stalheim, at the 32nd Contemporary Music Festival, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana. The composition is scored for flute, bass clarinet, percussion (piccolo snare drum, small tom-tom, splash cymbal, ride cymbal, hi-hat), piano, violin solo, and cello. Duration is four minutes.
Sinatra Shag (1998) is part of my series of compositions inspired by the seminal 1972 book on American architecture entitled Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour. For these authors Las Vegas was to the strip what Rome was to the piazza. Las Vegas was the final refutation of the “Either/Or” of traditional high culture. Architecturally, Learning From Las Vegas revealed the strip as a complex neon landscape of symbol and iconography in space.
In Sinatra Shag the seven members of the combo are divided into various rhythmic groups to create layers of pulse and complexity. The performers play chromatically ascending passages to the groove of a “col legno battuto” bass line in the cello. Swinging lounge instrumental riffs and swirling glisses are looped and layered virtuosically throughout the composition, like a multi-colored shag carpet. The composition evokes the Las Vegas era when leading American popular music entertainers of the 1960s such as Frank Sinatra, and his daughter Nancy, performed at the Sands Hotel, known for its luxurious shag carpeting.
Other works in my Las Vegas series include Route 66 (1998) for orchestra, the piano concerto Le Tombeau de Liberace (1996), Dead Elvis (1993) for bassoon soloist and small chamber ensemble, Lounge Lizards (1994) for two pianos and two percussion, and Firecracker (1991) for oboe soloist and small chamber ensemble.