haiku no. 2 for orchestra (2009)
31 January 2010
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio Youth Symphony Orchestra / Troy Peters
Composed to celebrate Troy Peter's inaugural season as music director of the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio, Northern Lights consists of four sections, each of which lasts approximately sixty-five seconds.
When Troy Peters told me that the theme of the concert at which a new work I was to offer for the occasion was "northern lights,' I immediately flashed on a sultry summer evening during the mid seventies when—as a teenager working on my uncle's dairy farm deep in the countryside just shy of Michigan's Upper Peninsula—lying on my back in the middle of a hay field and looking up at the sky, I was struck breathless by the most beautiful eruption of the Northern Lights I've ever seen.
The splendid auroras borealis, named after Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn, and boreas, the Greek name for the north wind, are the result of the emissions of photons in the Earth's upper atmosphere. Auroras are, according to Wikipedia, "the result of the emissions of photons in the Earth's upper atmosphere, above fifty miles, from ionized nitrogen atoms regaining an electron, and oxygen and nitrogen atoms returning from an excited state to ground state." The first, somewhat pointillist section of the piece is called "excited state."
The second section, featuring sustained notes, is called "aurorae." That summer night so long ago, also featured long red waves of color, through which stars could occasionally be seen. As the northern lights faded, stars began to appear, and the Milky Way was revealed in a shimmering, awe-inspiring smear across the sky. The third section of the piece, entitled "Milky Way," evokes that.
The last section of the piece is called "burning sky." It evokes the distant heat lightning that began after the sky had cleared. It went on for another hour, and didn't stop until clouds and crackling thunder rolled in, driving me in to bed.
Appropriately, the piece, based as it is on a memory from my teenage years, is dedicated to the young players of the orchestra and their music director.
— Daron Hagen, 2009