New Music Friday: Shinkansen

Every Friday we highlight new string orchestra music. This week’s selection is Shinkansen by Jason W. Krug.

One of Japan’s greatest technological achievements is its massive commuter railway system, the most important part of which is the Shinkansen, known in English as the “Bullet Train.” The network of high-speed railways connects cities throughout Japan at speeds between 150 and 200 miles per hour, and carries millions of passengers annually.

This musical work is intended to portray this train on one of its journeys. A constant, propulsive eighth and sixteenth note pattern underscores the entire piece, reflecting the sound of the train on the rails. Occasional dissonance creeps in to depict the sound of a train horn, while over the top runs a melody with a repetitive rhythmic pattern, which moves throughout the ensemble during the course of the piece. With a final crescendo, the piece comes to an end as the train pulls into the station.

About the Shinkansen

Precision is the name of the game throughout this piece, not just on the rapid-fire sixteenths, but even on the opening quarter notes, which will set up the tempo and feeling of the piece. Extra time should be taken to learn the rhythm that appears starting in measure 9, as it passes amongst all parts at different points and can be hard to glean from the notation itself, so learning by rote can avoid issues down the line.

The cello melody in measure 17, followed by the first violin melody in measure 21, should be ever so slightly more legato than the detaché parts that have preceded them. At measure 29, the violins and viola have the melody on the first two beats of the measure, followed by the celli and basses on beats 3 and 4, so pay particular attention to the dynamics, and make sure those mezzo-fortes drop out of the way of the melody.

Don’t overdo the constant sixteenths that show up in measures 33 through 41; they need to be precise, but shouldn’t sound forced or panicked. The melody returns in 42 and should build to an explosive sforzando in measure 50. Make a big deal of the crescendo in 52 and 53, and don’t be afraid to break a few bow hairs (literally or metaphorically) on the last note.

About the Jason W. Krug

Jason W. Krug is a native of Indianapolis, Indiana. He holds a degree in music from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jason is a full-time freelance composer, arranger, clinician, and teacher. Since his first publication in 2006, he’s had over 400 compositions and arrangements accepted for handbells, piano, strings, organ, and choir. His works have been featured at numerous festivals and workshops in the United States and beyond.

In his spare time, Jason enjoys writing. He has spent several years working on a young adult fantasy series, The Sadonian Chronicles, and recently released his first non-fiction book, The General Theory of Creativity. He frequently participates in the National Novel Writing Month event in November.

Jason continues to live in Indianapolis with his wife Ellen and his sons Daniel and Malcolm. You can find him on the web at jasonwkrug.com.

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