Nina C. Young

Composer and Sound Artist

Title: Fata Morgana
Instrumentation: version for symphonic brass ensemble: 4 trumpets, 6 horns, 2 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone, tuba, 2 percussion
Duration: 09:15
Year Composed: 2014

Alternate version for orchestra
Instrumentation: 2222.4221.timp + 3 perc. harp. pno. strings: min. 10 8 6 6 4
Duration: 10:00
Year Composed: 2014
Recording available upon request

Program Note:
(adapted from those by Matthew Mendez)

A Fata Morgana is a type of distorted maritime mirage seen just above the horizon. Named after the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay, these mirages are associated to the distant fairy castles and sirens that would lure sailors to their death. The idea of these mirages elicits a series of evocative musical effects: the hazy scrim of shimmering vibraphones, menacing trumpet calls conjuring up a sinister version of the first movement of Debussy’s “La Mer”, the labyrinthine structure capturing the sensation of being dangerously off course.

Avoiding the customary grouping by like instruments, Fata Morgana (version for symphonic brass) calls for an untraditional seating arrangement, which facilities strange echo effects and illusory resonances. With its spare juxtapositions, the music has the flavor of surrealism. Contrast comes in the guise of a fleeting chorale, distant cousin to Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman”, which contains the most celebrated Fata Morgana in music.

The poetics of the piece create an imaginative world based on man against the elements: the warmth of human presence (the chorale) versus the cold desolation of nature (fanfares). Here, nature gets the upper hand, with one of the piece’s final features summoning the sound of drowning.

Fata Morgana was commissioned by the Tanglewood Music Center, with the generous support of the Merwin Geffen, M.D. and Norman Solomon, M.D. New Commissions Fund. The work was premiered on June 29th, 2014 in Seiji Ozawa Hall with the 2014 Tanglewood Music Center Fellows performing under the direction of Karina Canellakis.

Nina C. Young - composer