Composer 2022: Michael Young “The Phoenix”

Michael Young is a Hobart-based composer, conductor, and musician. Michael studied composition at the University of Tasmania, under the guidance of Dr. Maria Grenfell. He also studied conducting and ensemble skills under the guidance of Gary Wain (UTAS), Bill Baker (UTAS) and Fred J Allen (SFASU, Texas). Michael is actively involved in community bands in Tasmania, playing clarinet with Hobart Wind Symphony and tenor saxophone with Southern Lights Big Band. Michael is currently Musical Director of Clarence City Band and is conductor of their Symphonic Band, leader of their Jazz Ensemble, and is the small ensembles coordinator. He is also a life member of Clarence City Band. Michael is actively involved with the Tasmanian Bands League, where he serves as Vice President (South) and as the chair of the Music Advisory Board (MAB). Michael is also a qualified teacher, graduating with a Bachelor of Teaching from the University of Tasmania. He currently works at Eastside Lutheran College.

Program Notes: “THE PHOENIX”

The inspiration, and title, of this work is derived from the mythical phoenix. The phoenix is a bird with colourful plumage and a golden tail. There are many variants on the colours depending on the legend, which include scarlet, purple, blue, and green. According to the legends, the phoenix’s cry is a beautiful song. The legends also tell how the phoenix builds itself a nest towards the end of its life. At the end of its life cycle, the phoenix and its nest burn away until both are reduced to ashes. From the ashes, the phoenix is reborn.
This orchestral work was structured based upon the life cycle, as described in the legends. The structure of the work (in sections), is as follows:
1) The phoenix (introduction) – mm. 1-79: the main theme is introduced, with a bright and colourful latin motif. This represents the colourful plumage of the phoenix.
2) The phoenix builds a nest – mm. 80-114: a mysterious, yet ominous section representing the foreboding yet inevitable fate of the phoenix.
3) The phoenix in flames – mm. 115-141: orchestral intensity is gradually built up to represent the last dying moments of the phoenix. The intensity fades away into a sombre version of the second section theme represent death.
4) From the ashes . . . – mm. 142-189: a sultry yet moving section, representing a sense of grief and despair. The imagery of something beautiful being reduced to ashes is such an Absurdist concept.
5) The rebirth (phoenix rising) – mm. 190-207: a fragmented version of the main theme, the orchestration begins with marimba and xylophone and continues to build up to represent the phoenix rising from the ashes.
6) The phoenix (reprise) – mm. 208-287: the reprise of the main theme features the marimba and woodwinds, but expands into a brass fanfare and soaring version of the “from the ashes . . .” theme. This section concludes with a final return of the main theme.
7) Release – mm. 288-322: based on the imagery of the phoenix flying off into the distance, this section features a lighter and higher register version of the soaring “from the ashes . . .” theme from the reprise section.

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