Ulric Cole Sunset Channel Program Notes
Ulric Cole was born in New York in 1905 and studied in Los Angeles, then at Juilliard with Rubin Goldmark, and in 1927 in Paris with Nadia Boulanger (who also taught Blitzstein, Gershwin, Glass, Menotti and countless others). After the success of Cole’s Serenade for Piano & Orchestra, which she premiered with the Cincinnati Symphony, their music director Eugene Goossens encouraged her to write this tone poem, which would go on to be premiered by the Sydney Symphony under his direction in 1955. Cole had a varied career that included work as an editor for Time Magazine.
Sunlight Channel is named after the water between Pavavu and Banika islands, 30 miles north-west of the Solomon Islands’ Guadalcanal. Cole wrote that the piece “attempts to evoke a mood and scene in a remote and sparsely inhabited spot in the southwestern Pacific, the Russell Islands. The mood is peaceful; the scene is of clear water in its many shades of blue and green in which are myriad schools of tropical fish of all colors, shapes and designs, coral formations of varied shapes and colors. The channel runs between two small islands, thickly grown with coconut palms, where dark green fronds click in the breeze.
“The work is composed of a rhythmic obstinate of two beats and a pause- in effect, the rhythm of calm water lapping against a beach, a stationary boat; over this, a central theme of 26 bars, solo flute, solo oboe, which leads into a new tonality, and descending roulades of overlapping woodwinds that end a short, shrill sort of birdcall, unrelated to the other tonality.
“With the interweaving and new treatment of this material, in its development, it reaches a poignant climax, tutti. Then, slowly receding, the long-line theme reappears, the harp joining the obstinate, the descending woodwind roulades now in augmentation (half-speed), echoed by solo violin, and a final high “bird call” as the obstinate, in augmentation, diminuendo, brings the work to an end.”
Born: September 9, 1905, New York
Died: May 21, 1992