17 Dec 2018

Tower – Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1

by Michael Clive

Joan Tower

Joan Tower

In the sound of Tower’s compositions and even in their titles, we can discern a legacy from her father, who was a mineralogist, as Tower explores subjects inspired by all aspects of the natural world—the trees and forests, the skies and waters, and, yes, the earth and its minerals. She brings us close to their details and steps back to provide perspective on their vastnesses, capturing them in the contrasts of soft and hard textures, large and small scale, calmness and forcefulness. We hear their juxtapositions in the poetic tension Tower conveys between instrumental textures, loud and soft passages, and complex, energetic rhythms.

Commissioned by the Houston Symphony, this first Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman has traditional, brass-heavy scoring, as in Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. But to this Tower adds extended and highly expressive percussion, including glockenspiel, marimba and chimes. It is the first in a six-part suite that Tower revised and unified in 1997. In 2014 the entirety of Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman was recognized for inclusion in the National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically or aesthetically important.”