Frank Ticheli
Manhattan Beach Music, 2005


In strictly musical terms, Abracadabra (2005) is as clear an example of musical economy as anything Ticheli has composed.  Almost everything is derived from the opening bars of the main theme.  Indeed, virtually every note can be traced to the main melody or its accompaniment.  Because of this heightened sense of unity, the composer had to choose other ways to achieve musical variety.  The most prominent solution was through sudden and frequent shifts of mood, mode, and tonality.

Performance Notes

Abracadabra (2005) was composed in the summer of 2004, and was orchestrated the following November during a residency at the MacDowell Colony.  This piece is dedicated to Ticheli’s son, and is at once playful and serious, innocent and mischievous.  A sense of mystery pervades as the dark key of g minor is balanced by sudden shifts to bright and sunny major keys.  Throughout the composition, the composer was thinking about magic, not in an evil or frightening sense, but as a source of fun and fantasy.  His wonderfully playful, sometimes mischievous young son was always in the back of mind, as were images of Halloween with its costumes and jack-o’-lanterns.  As the piece nears its conclusion, the music rushes toward what seems to be an explosive finish.  But the woodwinds interrupt, fanning out to a questioning whole-tone cluster.  They are answered by a puff of sound, a final disappearing act.

Musical Challenges

As this piece maintains a whimsical sense of fantasy throughout, stays in 4/4 time, rarely adjusts tempo, and only changes key through the use of accidentals, it will give students the appearance of being simple.  This is not the case!  While the time and key never change, Ticheli uses articulation markings and accidentals ingeniously throughout the piece to modify the tonal and rhythmic feel.  In fact, one might be hard pressed if just listening to the piece to identify the time and key signatures!

That said, the feel of the piece should be crisp and light throughout, never getting heavy-handed or overplayed.  There are many places throughout the piece where an instrument or two have an opportunity to play a light, legato, lyrical phrase against a stricter, more separated accompanying figure.  These “soloists” should feel free to exaggerate dynamic shapes to the lines.  In the sense of magic and whimsy, the light soloistic figures should be played in as carefree a manner as possible.

Ticheli uses very specific articulation marking throughout the piece.  The ensemble would do a dis-service to the composer if they failed to regard those markings.  Accents, staccatos, and housetop accents are all interpreted very differently.  In order to get the most out of the clever, devious nature of the piece, these articulations should all be very precise, and consistent throughout the ensemble.

Overall, this should be a very fun piece for a concert or festival performance.

About the Composer

Frank Ticheli (b. 1958) joined the faculty of the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music in 1991, where he is Professor of Composition. From 1991 to 1998, Ticheli was Composer in Residence of the Pacific Symphony, and he still enjoys a close working relationship with that orchestra and their music director, Carl St. Clair.

Ticheli's orchestral works have received considerable recognition in the U.S. and Europe. Performances have come from the Philadelphia Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Dallas Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, the radio orchestras of Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Saarbruecken, and Austria, and the orchestras of Austin, Bridgeport, Charlotte, Colorado, Haddonfield, Harrisburg, Hong Kong, Jacksonville, Lansing, Long Island, Louisville, Lubbock, Memphis, Nashville, Omaha, Phoenix, Portland, Richmond, San Antonio, San Jose, and others.

Ticheli is well known for his works for concert band. In addition to composing, he has appeared as guest conductor at Carnegie Hall, at many American universities and music festivals, and in cities throughout the world.

Frank Ticheli is the winner of the 2006 NBA/William D. Revelli Memorial Band Composition Contest for his Symphony No. 2. Other awards for his music include the Charles Ives and the Goddard Lieberson Awards, both from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Walter Beeler Memorial Prize, and First Prize awards in the Texas Sesquicentennial Orchestral Composition Competition, Britten-on-the-Bay Choral Composition Contest, and Virginia CBDNA Symposium for New Band Music. He is a national honorary member of Kappa Kappa Psi and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and he was named by the American School Band Directors Association as the 2009 recipient of the A. Austin Harding Award.

Frank Ticheli received his doctoral and master’s degrees in composition from The University of Michigan.