Cindy McTee’s Circuits

Notes by TŌN violinist Misty Drake

A Fresh Approach
The 1970s–80s set America on a new trajectory of musical innovation. Steve Reich and Philip Glass were among the most influential names that charted a fresh approach to compositional techniques. Minimalism not only became a movement that pioneered new sounds of a modern America, but also influenced the upcoming generation of American composers. Cindy McTee is no exception. Her compositions embody the same Americana spirit, while incorporating avant-garde style from her time spent in Poland. Krzysztof Penderecki offered McTee compositional lessons in exchange for teaching his children the English Language—the ultimate dream for any young composer!

Versatile Repetition
In 1990, Cindy McTee composed the concert overture titled Circuits. This piece highlights the simplistic, yet versatile role of repetition. Persistent 16th notes mimic the industrial clangs of modern machines, and are reinstated by ostinato motifs throughout the piece. Circuits is dedicated to her husband and conductor, Leonard Slatkin.

From the Composer
In the score, the composer notes “Circuits was written in 1990 for the Denton Chamber Orchestra of Denton, Texas. The title is meant to characterize several important aspects of the work’s musical language: a strong reliance upon circuitous structures such as ostinatos; the use of a formal design incorporating numerous, recurring short sections; and the presence of an unrelenting, kinetic energy achieved through the use of 16th notes at a constant tempo of 152 beats per minute. The inclusion of jazz elements and the playful manipulation of musical materials using syncopation, sudden transposition, and juxtaposition are also characteristic of the work.”