The Mysterious Divertimento of Dr. T 

Composed in: 1980
Instrumentation: Flute & Harpsichord
Premiered by: Mark Carlson, flute
Frederick Hammond, harpsichord
Publisher: C. Swigart Music

Program Notes

The Mysterious Divertimento of Dr. T (1980) came during a time in which I was intrigued with the notion of "cubism" in music—manifested in the inclusion of what would normally be three distinct movements into just one—and with the quick splices from one scene to another that are common both in film and in electronic music.  As often, I was also influenced by the phenomenon in dreams in which one scene or character suddenly transforms into something quite different, seamlessly and as if nothing strange had happened. The piece is made up of three ostensibly disparate dances: a tango, a sarabande, and a waltz, which cut back and forth between one another.

The Divertimento also is one of a long string of pieces which show my love of the tango—and of South American music in general—which continues to this day.  And though the combination of flute and harpsichord is perfectly normal when it comes to the baroque sarabande, it is hardly what one associates with tangos or waltzes, and I just thought it would be fun to let the instruments play a kind of music they don't often get to do.

Speaking of fun, the title is an allusion to a movie which most anyone of my age knew from its frequent TV broadcasts, The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T, a Dr. Seuss dream fantasy in which an evil piano teacher enslaves 500 boys to practice round the clock at one long curvy keyboard.  The Dr. T of my piece is the tango, which, though not evil, seductively leads the waltz and the sarabande on a fun adventure.

I wrote the piece for a recital I organized to celebrate passing my PhD exams at UCLA; the program was made entirely of brand-new or recent pieces contributed by various friends: Alden Ashforth, Alexandra Pierce, Paul Reale, Douglas Scott, and Brad Wood.