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Robert Xavier Rodríguez

Publisher: G. Schirmer

The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (orchestra version) (2005)
Text Writer
Norton Juster
G Schirmer Inc
Soloists and Orchestra
Year Composed
20 Minutes
Programme Note
Robert Xavier Rodríguez The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (orchestra version) (2005)
First performance:
March 25, 2012
Jamie Bernstein, narrator
Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Richard Giargiulio, conductor
Dallas, TX

Program note:
The Dot and the Line, A Romance in Lower Mathematics (2011) for narrator, and visual images was commissioned by the Dallas Symphony and Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute with support from Richard and Sherolyn Merrick, Donald and Norma Stone and the University of Texas at Dallas. An earlier chamber version (2005) was commissioned by the Dallas-based Voices of Change ensemble. The work is based on the classic 1963 book of the same title, with text and illustrations by Norton Juster. Rodríguez has previously written A Colorful Symphony (1987), for narrator and orchestra, based on a chapter from Juster's best-known work, The Phantom Tollbooth (1961).

Rodríguez's musical version is the first multi-media treatment of The Dot and the Line since the academy-awardwinning 1965 animated film made by Chuck Jones, the celebrated producer of such cartoon characters as Tom and Jerry, Pepe LePew, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. The text of The Dot and the Line concerns "a sensible straight Line" who is "hopelessly in love" with a Dot. The Dot, meanwhile, "only has eyes for a wild an unkempt Squiggle." The Line, however, learns to bend in new and dazzling ways and, in doing so, triumphs. The music represents the three characters through a series of leitmotifs which are developed throughout the work: quick, repeated notes for The Dot; scales or glissandos for The Line; and a primitive, repetitive motive accompanied by dissonant clusters for The Squiggle. The instrumental writing is virtuosic for all instruments, with prominent passages for a solo string quartet, harp and piano. The percussion writing is particularly colorful, including such non-traditional sounds as ratchet, slide whistle, siren, flexatone, police whistle, whip, cowbells, the jawbone of an ass and lion's roar.

Rodríguez employs three classical quotations: a motif from Wagner's opera Tristan and Isolde (as the narrator, at the opening, describes The Line's unrequited love for The Dot) and two fragments from keyboard works of J.S. Bach: the Fugue in E Minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I and the Toccata in E Minor (one blending into the other at the mention of the word "erudite"). The composer also includes a comical version of a fragment from his Vaudeville-based opera, The Old Majestic (1988), as The Squiggle says, "Hey, have you heard the one about the two guys..." The quotations merge with Rodríguez' characteristic "richly lyrical" (Musical America) musical style: "romantically dramatic" (Washington Post) and full of "the composer's all-encompassing sense of humor" (Los Angeles Times).

Related works:
   The Dot and the Line
   —narrator and ensemble

...the music served as a fine foundation for some wonderful humor, both verbal and visual. The laughter at the book's final, marvelous punch line filled the hall. What a feat for a 49-year-old joke — especially one about math.
Michael Merschel,,27/03/2012
Among the many wonderful things that a symphony orchestra brings to its community, the family-oriented concerts have to be at the top of the list… On Sunday at the Meyerson Symphony Center, the DSO added another shining star to the proceedings by playing a world premiere of a new composition for its youngest audience… Robert Xavier Rodríguez, a superb composer who writes in a highly accessible yet fresh musical voice, is one of our…musical treasures. His mastery of the craft of composition is evident in all of his works, but they are not academic, overly intellectual or dry. He never tosses in a complex fugue or similar virtuoso bit of compositional flash without a good musical reason to do so... Rodríguez gleefully took on setting [Norton] Juster's The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics and happily revisited it for this expanded [orchestral] version. This is one of those rare children's books that can be equally enjoyed by adults. The text actually exists on two levels at once and everyone in the audience on Sunday, young and old, was enchanted. When we first learn about the hopeless love that the line has for the dot, music buffs recognized a quote from Wagner's opera about a similar situation, Tristan and Isolde. Not recognizing this musical "in" joke didn't detract from anyone's enjoyment, but it brought a special smile to those who did. There were other similar musical quotes and references cleverly worked into the texture for the amusement of those that discover them. This is a piece that, while excellent for its original purpose of being on a family concert, would also fit on a regular subscription concert without being out of place. Its profound message is presented with charm and grace… Having the artwork from the book projected above the orchestra was a big help. It is eloquent in its own right and the complex geometrical drawing that the line presents at the height of his accomplishment are a wonder to behold.
Gregory Sullivan Isaacs,,27/03/2012
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