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A composer of true Americana

January 30, 2010 |  9:45 am

Imagine a postmodern Aaron Copland, or Charles Ives with a pop cultural twist, and you’re primed for the music of Michael Daugherty.

MikeA composer of his time and birthright, Daugherty is a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native and the musical embodiment of Americana. His canvas reflects a 20th century cultural mosaic dotted by the likes of Elvis and Superman and Jackie Onassis. But at age 55, Daugherty is also the exuberant master of his craft, an artist whose sophistication and compelling appeal can seem utterly at odds with the often kitschy titles of his works.

Such is the quirky, sly, smart composer whose “Mount Rushmore” for chorus and orchestra will receive its world premiere this week at the Pacific Symphony’s American Composers Festival, led by music director Carl St.Clair.

Daugherty, the Pacific Symphony’s composer in residence for its 2009-10 season, was commissioned to write “Mount Rushmore” for the festival, themed “The Greatest Generation. It will be performed by the symphony and the Pacific Chorale.

The new work is typical of Daugherty’s creative process. Its inspiration harks back to childhood experiences, when the family would pile into the car for road trips that included a visit to the famous granite sculpture in South Dakota where presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt are enshrined.

For a profile of the composer by Lawrence B. Johnson in Sunday's Arts & Books section, click here.

 Photo credit: Boosey & Hawkes