Action Figure

Instrumentation
Flute
Clarinet
Violin
Cello
Percussion
Piano
Action Figure was premiered by Ensemble Courage, Titus Engel, Conductor, in April, 2004 in
Dresden, Germany. It was revised in July, 2011 to reflect changes made for the New York
premiere by the American Modern Ensemble, Robert Paterson, Director in December, 2010.
Duration: ca. 5’
Action figures are muscular, grandiloquent, plastic sculptures, often depicting comic
book, film and television heroes and meant as children’s playthings; and they are a particular
passion of mine. Action Figure, written in early 2002, is meant as an ode to these childhood
playthings. Its mood is heroic, dramatic and, at times, pompous. Like the figures which give
the piece its name, however, it’s simply meant to be a lot of fun.
Musically, Action Figure is a simple study in rhythm and velocity. Its main focus is a
growing pulse, at first tentative but eventually growing to overpower all sense of melodic and
motivic construction. Structurally, Action Figure is a somewhat abortive ternary form in which
the return of the first section is crassly interrupted. The ending, therefore, is open. The piece
should continue onto a more satisfying conclusion but it is foiled by the insistent force of the
sixteenth note a-flats. Has the villain won? Perhaps we will find out….in the sequel?