We Want Mark Twain
Read a review of We Want Mark Twain from the Herald Gazette (PDF 160K)
"John Duffy is one of the last of a breed of American visionary artist-impresarios, a generation that included the late Joseph Papp, Harvey Lichtenstein, the late Alvin Ailey, Pauline Oliveros, the late Ernest Fleischmann; these veritable forces of nature who built from the ground-up, who dared to do the impossible, and in so doing, would forever change the landscape of American contemporary performing arts. They combined the now all-too-rare quality of artistic and administrative imagination, which challenged everyone to consider the artists and their work above all other factors that predictably cause institutions to yield to compromise"
We Want Mark Twain was commissioned by the Eastman School of Music and composed in 2005. I revised it in 2009. In conceiving this work, I read Twain’s writings, over a long period of time, and felt an inspirational kinship with the ideas of this extraordinary man. A curious thing: the second movement, “Tom and Becky, Lost in the Cave,” I had set years before, and realize, now, that my own grief over my sister’s tragic death, my own wanting, desperately to save my sister, is akin to Tom saving Becky. In composing Twain, I wanted the musicians to be part of the drama; to call out, yell out, sing out, stomp their feet, join in with the narrator, so the drama is felt viscerally.
Saxophone Concerto was commissioned by Duke University in 1964. I composed the concerto at the height of the civil rights struggle. At that time, I lived in New York City, my hometown. I picked up the paper one day, and there blared a headline: Four Little Girls Killed by Bomb, in a Birmingham Baptist Church. Heartbreaking... yes, horrifying. I composed the second movement of the concerto to the memory of these precious children.
The seven Portraits for Orchestra are from concert, film, and theatre music I've composed during the past fifty years. They were commissioned by the Sierra Club and Channel Thirteen in New York City. I have given names and places to these short pieces; people I admire; places which spark the imagination; ideas I love.