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Michael Gordon

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Sunshine of Your Love (1999)
Red Poppy
Year Composed
9 Minutes
Programme Note
Michael Gordon Sunshine of Your Love (1999)

Composer note:
There is a lot of music about love. I am not sure why most of it is soft and gentle. Love is one of the world's most powerful forces. One cannot touch it or even be precise about what it is. To me, making a statement about love is to make something loud and mysterious and huge.

I wrote Sunshine of Your Love for the Ensemble Modern Orchestra. I knew that it would be on a program with Ives' Fourth Symphony and a new work by John Adams, Naïve and Sentimental Music. John was to conduct, and I asked for every single instrument available and a few more to boot.

The orchestra is divided into four groups consisting of violins, high winds and brass, each tuned one-eighth of a tone apart. Each of these groups is supported by a keyboard tuned similarly. The four groups trade off a melody that ascends and descends in eighth tones. The lower instruments, along with percussion, two electric guitars and two electric basses, support the upper instruments with insistent and driving rhythm.

The title comes from a song by Cream. As a boy, I listened to their album, "Disraeli Gears," over and over while trying to decipher the psychedelic cover. The dark, moody, raw music that accompanied this love song was a revelation to me.

— Michael Gordon

  • 11 APR 2014
    Minimalist Jukebox
    Los Angeles, CA
    Los Angeles Philharmonic
    John Adams, conductor

    Other Dates:
    12,13 April - Los Angeles, CA
  • 24 AUG 1999
    Sunshine of Your Love World Premiere
    Edinburgh Festival
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Ensemble Modern Orchestra
    John Adams, conductor

The daring program began with the U.S. premiere of Michael Gordon's Sunshine of Your Love, also from 1999 and what is surely the loudest sustained noise a conventional symphony orchestra has ever been asked to make and a conventional symphony orchestra subscription audience has ever been asked to accept….The four orchestras, jammed together on practically every inch of the Disney stage, included synthesizers and electric guitars. And for 10 minutes everyone wailed, each band in its own tuning, at maximum volume while thwacked timpani kept the beat.

At first this can seem an unholy mess. The ear is an organ of balance. If Gordon's intent was to make a listener feel unsteady in his seat, stomach in mouth as on a roller coaster, he succeeded for some of us anyway. It was a thrill, especially in the radical Disney acoustic. What he didn't succeed in doing is angering the audience. Many stood and cheered.
Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times,13/04/2014
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