from: Elements (3/11/04)

"Music for Dr. Who"
by David Maslanka

(Comments are by Karen Sandene)

Sarah and Harry head for the Kaled dome to warn of the impending attack while the Doctor remains behind in the Thal base to try to sabotage the rocket. A Thal guard activates a defense system and the Doctor convulses in pain as an electrified fence sends waves of current through him.
Portion of the synopsis of the Dr. Who episode,
 “Genesis of the Daleks”, Season 12 (1974-75)

I’ve never seen an episode of the BBC series “Dr. Who” that ran from 1963 until 1996 (utilizing eight different doctors over the years).  It ran on PBS for some time, but science fiction has never been my thing so I skipped it.  But there was something about the show that caught the fancy of composer David Maslanka, as well as pianist Barney Childs, who commissioned the work.  Here’s a short blurb Maslanka provides about the "Music for Dr. Who":

"Dr. Who" is the BBC space fantasy series. This piece has no official connection to the series, but is a reflection on a single incident in one of the shows; one of my favorite brief pieces.

The single incident he refers to - I’ve been told - was Dr. Who being electrocuted, so I’m assuming the opening quote is from the correct episode.  With a good minute of the bassoonist pummeling the listeners with jarring multiphonics and the pianist pounding the keyboard, there’s just about only one way for a listener to interpret the sound: “Well, it sounds like someone’s being electrocuted.”  Fortunately, this short work also celebrates the heroics of Dr. Who (who somehow manages to save the universe because of his actions).  The conclusion exhibits a peculiar beauty, with the bassoonist playing chorale-like chords, once again utilizing multiphonics, and the pianist gently fading away, to me possibly depicting Dr. Who’s ascent to heaven (although the series did go on for twenty-two more years).

David Maslanka was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1943. He attended the Oberlin College Conservatory and spent a year at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, He did graduate work in composition at Michigan State University and has served on the faculties of the State University of New York at Geneseo, Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and Kingsborough College of the City University of New York. He now lives in Missoula, Montana

“Music for Dr. Who” was premiered by pianist Barney Childs and bassoonist John Steinmetz, a renowned studio bassoonist in the Los Angeles area and a talented composer in his own right.  His work, “Fish Phase” for Two Contrabassoons and Goldfish will be on a New Music Agency concert sometime in the immediate future.