Overnight Mail

From Wind Repertory Project
Michael Torke

Michael Torke

General Info

Year: 1997
Duration: c. 17:20
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Bill Holab Music
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - Rental   |   Score Only (print) - $75.00


1. Priority – 5:25
2. Standard – 6:05
3. Saturday Delivery – 5:20


Full Score
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone/Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
C Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Overnight Mail was commissioned by the Orkest de Volharding for their 25th anniversary. Seventeen minutes long, it is scored for their usual complement of instruments: three saxes, three trumpets, three trombones, flute, horn, piano and bass.

The titles of each of its three movements, Priority, Standard, and Saturday Delivery, present the options for expediency when sending things, but musically they represent different reactions to an abstract compositional problem I set up for myself: resolve dissonant notes (non-chord tones) by leaps rather than steps. For me this was important, because I want to write music that follows all the old rules of voice leading and counterpoint, but sound fresh. I truly believe that it is unusual and interesting to avoid parallel fifths and octaves, for which the result is not archaic. I view that concern as being almost radical.

The first movement's punchiness shows the particular tradition of Dutch musicianship, which this illustrious group, founded by Louis Andriessen, is the premiere example. Flowing, lengthy melodic variations are featured in the slower second movement, while the third movement draws its inspiration from what is known in popular groups as the "horn section": a trio of sax, trumpet, and trombone playing together in octaves, sometimes even in unison.

- Program Note by composer

The three movements of Overnight Mail suggest some modern modes of written communication in their frenetic activity (Priority), leisurely reassurance (Standard), and smoky jazziness (Saturday Delivery), but from a compositional point-of-view they deal with a technique central to Torke's distinctive voice -- what he refers to by the too-modest designation of "melody and accompaniment." Much of the irresistible drive of Torke's music comes from the superimposition of two or more brilliantly colored but transparent instrumental or vocal layers: one perhaps in streams of chords and strongly syncopated, another more continuous and lyrical, a third mediating between the two. The various layers, which can migrate among soloists and instrumental groups, are of equal importance, without the dominance and subordination implied by conventional "melody and accompaniment," and have distinctive characters that frequently recall the harmonic, rhythmic, and orchestration practices of pop and rock, but also look to such classical masters as Stravinsky, Beethoven, and Bach in their thematic development and compelling momentum.

Torke's fast movements are electrically kinetic, as though the feet were stamping the ground while the arms reach toward the sky, so that just about everything he writes seems danceable, a quality that his music shares, and for similar reasons, with that of Stravinsky. Standard, the second movement of Overnight Mail, one of Torke's most beautiful pieces, uses this layering technique at a slower tempo to create a hymnal effect of superimposed choirs.

- Program Note from liner notes of Ecstatic CD Michael Torke: Four


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Michael Torke website Accessed 18 July 2017
  • Torke, M. (1997). Overnight Mail, 1997 [score]. Adjustable Music: [Brooklyn, N.Y.]