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Short Ride in a Fast Machine (arr Saucedo)

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John Adams

John Adams (arr. Richard Saucedo)

Subtitle: From Two Fanfares for Orchestra

General Info

Year: 1986 / 2006
Duration: c. 4:20
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Symphony
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $85.00   |   Score Only (print) - $10.00


Full Score
C Piccolo (div.)
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II
Trombone I-II
Tuba/String Bass
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V, including:

  • Bass Drum (2)
  • Bells
  • Marimba
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Tam-Tam, large
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Wood Block (3)
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Commissioned by the Great Woods Festival to celebrate its inaugural concert at Great Woods, Mansfield, Massachusetts, and first performed June 13, 1986, by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.

- Program Note from the orchestral full score

Short Ride in a Fast Machine is a joyfully exuberant piece, brilliantly scored for a large orchestra. The steady marking of a beat is typical of Adams’s music. Short Ride begins with a marking of quarter-notes (woodblock, soon joined by the four trumpets) and eighths (clarinets and synthesizers); the woodblock is fortissimo and the other instruments play forte. Adams sees the rest of the orchestra as running the gauntlet through that rhythmic tunnel. About the title: “You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t?”

Short Ride in a Fast Machine features the usual minimalist earmarks: repetition, steady beat, and, perhaps most crucially, a harmonic language with an emphasis on consonance unlike anything in Western art music in the last five hundred years. Adams is not a simple — or simple-minded -- artist. His concern has been to invent music at once familiar and subtle. For all of their minimalist features, works such as Harmonium, Harmonielhere, and El Dorado are full of surprises, always enchanting in the glow and gleam of their sonority and bursting with the energy generated by their harmonic movement

- Program note by Michael Steinberg

Short Ride in a Fast Machine opens with a burst of barely contained exuberance: an insistent woodblock pounding out continuous quarter notes amid a whirling torrent of sound. The second of two fanfares (the other being Tromba Lontan or Distant Trumpet) composed in 1986, Short Ride in a Fast Machine has quickly become one of Adams’ most oft-performed works. A brilliant example of musical minimalism, the piece draws the audience in with a hypnotic, repetitive rhythm and subtly swerves through a complex series of harmonic shifts and instrumental color variations. A soaring trumpet fanfare in the midst of the mad rush of energy lends the composition a moment of ecstasy before rejoining the full-throttle race to the end.

- Program Note by Andrew Skaggs for the U.S. Navy Band


State Ratings

  • North Carolina: VI


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Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Adams, J.; Saucedo, R. (2006). Short Ride in a Fast Machine: From 'Two Fanfares for Orchestra' [score]. Boosey & Hawkes: Milwaukee, Wisc.