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Teton Pass (from Symphony No. 1 "The Grand Tetons")

by Thomas Little

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My family and I have a habit of going on long cross-country road trips in the summers, and on June 1st, 2013, we found ourselves en route to Grand Teton National Park in northwest Wyoming. While I’ve been fortunate enough to go to a great many beautiful places, the sights and experiences of that day have stuck with me ever since, and when it came time to write a a large orchestral piece, it served as an obvious point of inspiration. The four movements—“Teton Pass,” “Chapel of the Transfiguration,” “Moose,” and “Oxbow Bend”—all evoke different aspects of my time in what I truly believe to be America’s most underrated National Park.

This movement, “Teton Pass,” is named after a hazardous road that serves as the fastest route from Idaho Falls to Jackson, WY. The movement—and piece—opens by introducing fragmented melodies between statements of a rumbling engine noise as provided by the cellos and basses. The struggle up the mountain continues as the music opens up, but eventually settles down as it evokes the distant serenity of the Teton range. The middle section of the movement is a tone-poem evoking the experience of being at the top, but eventually the engine starts up again for the terrifying downhill journey. With the brass chorale at the end, it signals the arrival, and then there is a return to some of the fragmented tone-colors from the beginning before ending quietly with metal percussion and string harmonics.


released May 9, 2017
Special thanks to Dr. Rothkopf for putting up with the 100+ pages of manuscript I had at the beginning of the academic year and helping me whittle the piece down to its best possible incarnation, to Dr. Dillon and Mr. Frazelle for their insight and support when the movement was the focus of my composition jury, to Mr. Beck for his advice on mallets, to the people at my local Office Depot who now know how to bind 11x17 paper because of this piece, and—of course—to Maestro Lees and the entire UNCSA Symphony Orchestra for their ability to put together a difficult premiere in just five short rehearsals.


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Thomas Little North Carolina

Composer and pianist originally from North Carolina. YouTube's “Classical Nerd.” Getting his PhD in Composition at the University at Buffalo. Occasional mushroom hunter.

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