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Cryptids of North America

Program Notes

Cryp-to-zo-ol-o-gy n (1969) : the study of the lore concerning legendary animals esp. in order to evaluate the possibility of their existence. --Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

Virtually every culture in every part of the world has a tale of a creature that always manages to stay just out of sight…that may be the stuff of legend. Cryptids of North America is a musical representation of several such legendary animals on my own home continent. In composing this piece, it was my emphatic goal to depict these animals as I imagine them to be—to avoid relying too much on the opinions and observations (and clichés) of others. When a story becomes a legend, it’s thrown into the public domain in the very best way. After all, you should never let the facts get in the way of the truth. --The Composer

1. Mothman: In November of 1966, two young couples from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, while driving near the West Virginia Ordinance works, saw a humanoid creature slightly larger than a grown man with wings and huge glowing red eyes. It chased their car, flying at speeds up to 100 mph. The Mothman, as it would later be called, was sighted many more times throughout 1966 and 1967, until the collapse of the Silver Bridge in which 46 people died. Some claim Mothman caused the bridge to fall, while others believe he was trying to warn of the impending disaster.

2. Ogopogo: Okanagan Lake in British Columbia is home to the Canadian cousin of the Loch Ness Monster. This Native American legend was brought to the attention of white settlers in the 1860s after several swimming horses were dragged under the water and disappeared while being led across the lake. A mass sighting in 1926, in which 30 carloads of people saw the creature, added some credibility. Theories of what the Ogopogo actually is include a prehistoric whale, a dinosaur, a large fish, or just a misidentified beaver.

3. Chupacabra: Literally translated as goat sucker, stories of the Chupacabra originated in Puerto Rico, and spread quickly throughout Latin America. The first evidence for the existence of this creature was the discovery of farm animals with small puncture wounds in the neck and chest, completely drained of blood. Sightings of the creature soon followed. Described as a cross between a reptile and a large dog, many believe the Chupacabra is an animal from another planet, and was left on earth by alien visitors, either by accident, or for some as-yet undetermined reason.

4. Jersey Devil: In the winter of 1909, unidentifiable footprints were discovered in the fresh snow all over the Delaware Valley. The tracks began in the middle of open fields, and ended just as abruptly. They passed over objects such as fences and haystacks as if they weren’t even there. Tracks were found on the roofs of houses, on the tops of walls, and entering and exiting drainpipes as small as a few inches in diameter. While there are many stories about the origin and nature of the Jersey Devil, this movement is a specific musical representation of the creature that I imagine might have made such tracks.

5. Sasquatch: No introduction is needed for this most well known of cryptids. Affectionately called Big Foot, This creature has been sighted, searched for, and studied all over North America. Sasquatch best represents what people love most about cryptids. A scary story around a campfire. The question “I wonder what’s out there.” The intrigue of a good mystery. The thrill of just not knowing. Is it real, or some kind of mass hysteria. Sasquatch is essentially our need to discover, and yet it is also our desire to embrace the unknown. It’s a paradox, a contradiction. In trying to learn about Sasquatch, we’re really trying to learn about ourselves.

Performance Notes

As is often the case with my compositions, The metronome markings are only approximate, and exact tempos will differ depending on the ensemble. Also, cues should only be played if necessary. In a wind ensemble (one per part) setting, special attention must be paid to the trumpet parts; even though there are only three parts, a minimum of six trumpets is necessary for all divisi sections. Likewise, it is completely appropriate for all four horns to play the single F horn part together.

Mothman: In measure 4, the whole note in the low woodwinds should be very sudden, and very loud (like a truck horn—no shape or contour). The clarinets and euphonium in measures 25-28 must accentuate the dynamics. The overall effect should be threatening. In measures 49 and 50, it is important that the xylophone part be equal in volume with the piccolo. Beginning in measure 59, the upper woodwind parts are simply marked “slur”. Individual performers are encouraged to breathe when necessary, and not worry about dropping a note here or there to do so. The percussion section at measure 77 is marked pianissimo, and the cymbal scrapes (the first of which is in measure 81) are marked fortissimo to ensure they stick out. Measures 85-112 must create a sense of building anticipation. In measure 129-133, don't fight the dissonance—bathe in it. The last note should seem to come from nowhere. If the audience jumps, you did it right. The timpanist may either hold two mallets in each hand, or recruit a friend to play two of the drums. The “lots of drums” in the percussion 4 part are just that. Every percussionist with a free hand should hit some kind of drum.

Ogopogo: When the timpanist is instructed to strike the bowls of the drums, a place on the drum should be selected which gives a clear metallic ping. The metallic boom in the percussion 3 part (which is explained in both the score and part) may require some effort, but will be well worth it. At measure 38, one first trumpet should play the top note and following phrase, while the rest of the section plays the bottom note and decrescendo. This is not a trumpet solo—the trumpet part is of equal importance everything else, and no more.

Chupacabra: This movement requires a large percussion section. The use of multiple snare drums, bass drums, timbales, bongos, congas, and other drums (even marching percussion if that's what's available) is encouraged. Every drummer should be playing something. The overall effect should be that of a street festival or carnival. Parts marked “ad lib jam” should be improvised on and experimented with. When the woodwinds begin to enter in measure 11 and following, don't worry too much about them getting covered up (just as long as they're more or less audible in the overall texture). Although the dynamic is reduced to mf, the percussion is still the most important sound. The timpanist is not expected to play mallets. I just put both on the same staff because they don't play at the same time. The tuba entrance in measure 23, and the euphonium entrance in the next measure should create a sense of unease (more felt than heard) before becoming as loud as possible over the course of measure 26. Note the pedal tone in the euphonium part. Yes, those are the right notes in measure 35. In measure 37, the percussion should push the accelerando with their quintuplets, which should stick out. The rest of the movement should create a sense of things gradually falling apart.

Jersey Devil: Note the wide range of acceptable metronome markings. Trumpets and trombones must use cup mutes throughout the whole movement. The xylophone part starting in measure 9 must be clear. Pay special attention to the divisi in the oboe and alto sax which last for just one note. These little dissonances are important. Also note the divisi in the trumpet parts in measures 65-67. If for no other reason, these three measures are worth having six trumpets. Toward the end, the chime and timpani parts must come through clearly.

Sasquatch: The balance and tuning of the first chord is very important. The percussion parts should have a distant sound, like animals in a forest. At measure 14, the melody is in the bassoon and bass clarinet, though all the parts should blend together to create a pillow of sound. The bass line is still the melody at measure 24. Even though the oboes and marimba have an interesting counter-melody here, resist the urge to make it stick out; it's no more important than any other part. Once again, the trumpet part is not really a solo, just one part among many. (All of these disparate parts should blend together into the pillow of sound mentioned earlier.) At measure 35, all available drummers should play something. The use of non-European drums is encouraged. It should sound like a drum circle. The same is true for the ending. Don't let measure 59 be too loud. Leave some room to grow in the last bar. If, during that final crescendo, the percussion overtake the winds, that's fine.


Piccolo, Flute 1&2, Oboe 1&2, Bassoon, Clarinet 1,2,3, Bass Clarinet, Alto Sax 1&2, Tenor Sax, Bari Sax, Trumpet 1,2,3, F Horn, Trombone 1,2,3, Euphonium, Tuba, Timpani, Percussion 1,2,3,4

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