I've been preparing to conduct Sam's piece Glide Path with the Adelaide Wind Orchestra. It's an 8-minute work that Sam composed after his first trip to Alaska. There's no specific narrative to the piece, but Sam tells me that he had many different images of flying running through his head as he wrote it.
In looking back at my own memories of Alaska, flying features a lot. We took a bush plane from Fairbanks to Coal Creek and back, and before the workshop started I went on one of the popular sightseeing flights around Denali (which included landing on a glacier!). And even on the ground, the 24-hour daylight and all the pointy spruce trees had me constantly looking up at the sky in wonder. Perhaps most memorable of all was the golden eagle we all saw up close as we sat collecting inspiration on a hilltop in Denali National Park.
You know that sleep-deprived restless energy you get on a long flight to a new place? That's what Glide Path reminds me of. It sounds so bright, so free. It begins with loose fragments of music tossed playfully around the orchestra, and although there's a cool 5-beat groove that gets going a little later on, the music never feels like it completely settles down – which I love! It's just constantly overflowing with nervous energy and excitement!
I really admire how Sam has orchestrated it – there's often a lot going on, but the music always has this lightness to it, even when the full orchestra is playing. And that's how it flies.
Sam explains that this section was inspired by his overnight flight home from Fairbanks in 2015. I had a similar experience in 2016...
Many of the Fairbanks flights leave sometime after midnight, but because it's the middle of summer, the sky is still light. So after take-off, everyone closes their window shades to get some sleep. You try to sleep too, but your mind is still spinning with all your adventures. So a few hours later, as everyone around you drowses, you slide up your window shade... and you look out silently on majestic, snow-covered mountains, lit by the morning sun!
That quiet, dreamy sense of wonder is beautifully expressed by this section of the music. It builds up in a very gradual crescendo, which includes my favourite part of all – listen out for the horns and euphonium! :)
There's no publicly available recording of Glide Path yet, but you can check out some of Sam Young's other music on his website or his SoundCloud page (my personal favourites are Glimpses of Stars and Drifting out to Sea). Or better yet, come along to the Adelaide Wind Orchestra concert this Saturday night to hear the Australian premiere! Tickets are available here or at the door.