So I was rummaging through some old tapes and came across my first orchestra piece. Macha for Baritone and Orchestra, (Harold Aks, conducting the Sarah Lawrence Orchestra in 1977.)
On re-listening I was amazed just how good the orchestra actually sounds (at least once they get into the work and if we ignore the high brass, who were ringers). Especially so, considering that Sarah Lawrence was an undergraduate liberal arts school drawing from a total school population of less than 800. The secret, of course, is that Dorothy Delay and portion of the Julliard violin department was in residence at the school. Part of the fallout being excellent string sections in the orchestra. But, in addition, I did my own investigation in how to make a young, inexperienced orchestra (with limited rehearsal time) sound good in contemporary music. After listening to other rehearsals of new music works, I came to the conclusion that I could write anything as long as the rhythms were straight forward and explicit
I don't doubt that today's classical musicians are far more rhythmically savvy that the mid 1970's breed. Still, the goal back then was to keep the rhythmic aspects well within the reach of the collective consciousness of the ensemble.
And what is "Macha"? A paean to the Irish goddess of love and war.