Snapshots of Acadia (grade 3)
Snapshots of Acadia was commissioned by John Morneau and the University of Southern Maine Junior Music Academy (University of Southern Maine) in honor of their 25th anniversary. The piece is in four short movements (or snapshots), each of which is inspired by actual photos taken by John Morneau and his son at Maine’s famous Acadia National Park. These photos should ideally be projected for the audience to see while the piece is being performed.
The piece as a whole is based on the word Acadia, using each of the letters of that word as a musical note (the letter i becomes the note E, since that vowel is pronounced with that sound when you say the word). Thus, the basic melodic cell for the piece is A-C-A-D-E-A. The four notes that make up this set also form the key centers for each of the piece’s four movements (I is in A minor, II is in C minor, III is in D flat Lydian and IV is in E flat major).
The photo for the first movement, Bass Harbor Head Light, made me feel as though I was back in the 18th century, inspiring a folk song-like melody in A minor and also including some references to ship’s bells in the chimes part. The photo for the second movement, Crashing Water at Thunder Hole, inspired a loud and aggressive movement in which the percussion imitate crashing waves while the winds and brass play melodic material focused on open fifth harmonic intervals and a chord progression in C minor using the four-note set as it’s generator. The third movement, Calm Waters in Front of Cadillac Mountain, is scored for percussion and two soloists. It is much quieter and calmer, using imitation and an extended melodic line that moves through D flat Lydian (beginning the motion toward the major key that ends the piece). It is intended to suggest those quiet moments of grandeur looking across the water toward the park’s dominant mountain. The final movement, Sunrise at Acadia, focuses on the growing brilliance and feelings of hope and power that come with watching one of the first sunrises to be observed in the United States each morning. It uses the ACADIA melody as a chaconne (E flat – G – E flat – A flat – B flat) and builds gradually from a soft, quiet texture with little rays of sunlight appearing and eventually emerging into a powerful and brilliant close.
I. Bass Harbor Head Light
II. Crashing Water at Thunder Hole
III. Calm Waters in Front of Cadillac Mountain
IV. Sunrise at Acadia