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  • Writer's pictureDave

Chroma the Great || for Orchestra (2014)

Updated: Aug 14, 2022

I have always loved Norton Juster’s children's novel, The Phantom Tollbooth, for its incredible allegories and general fun with the English language. Having re-read the story recently, I was quite struck by a chapter in the middle section of the book, where Milo, the main character, has traveled into a forest area and comes across an orchestra and its conductor, Chroma the Great. Chroma and his orchestra contribute color to this imaginary world. Certain instruments create certain shades of blue and green. The sunset and the sunrise are both pieces that are performed every day. I loved this idea of conducting the sunrise, of playing the color of the sky, the clouds and dayscapes. I based my small tone poem on what I imagined the sound of Chroma the Great and his orchestra would be. From sunrise to the full height of day, to clouds and storm, and finally from sunset to nightfall, where Juster’s words put it best: “The last colors slowly faded from the western sky, and, as they did, one by one the instruments stopped, until only the bass fiddles, in their somber slow movement, were left to play the night and a single set of silver bells, brightened the constellations. The conductor let his arms fall limply at his sides and stood quite still as darkness claimed the forest.” The performance is by the Boston Conservatory Composer's Orchestra.

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