THUNDERBIRD for electric guitar and orchestra (2004)

THUNDERBIRD for electric guitar and orchestra (2004) - 12 min.

Commissioned by the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra for guitarist Kevin Patton.


As one of the few cross-cultural elements of Native North American mythology, the Thunderbird has been described as a spiritual and physical being that sometimes appears as something that terrorizes and plagues Indians, and sometimes as their protector and liberator. This is said to reflect the way thunderstorms and violent weather are seen by the Plains people. On one hand, they bring life-giving rain, on the other hand, they bring hail, flood, and lighting fire.

Such allusions as there are to the Thunderbird myth, are represented musically through various means including the juxtaposition of chromatic gestures with those that are primarily diatonic , the use of extreme instrumental ranges, the mood and color- enhancing role of pitched and non-pitched percussion, and rhythmic influence drawn from the vibrant, pulsating rhythms of contemporary American and World musics including jazz, rock, and Afro-Cuban.

Over the last 50 years, the electric guitar has emerged as the definitive musical instrument of American popular culture, however its role in a symphonic setting has been minimal. Rather than treating the electric guitar similar to the way the acoustic guitar has traditionally appeared in concerti, I have approached the instrument with its ‘electricness’ in mind. That is, I have tried to bring out many of the instrument's idiomatic timbral capabilities, including extended sustain, incisive single-note gestures, and the wide range of coloristic effects assisted by the use of signal processors.

Performance materiasl available from the composer