Eric Stokes: Susquehannas


Susquehannas (1985)
by Eric Stokes

I. Nostrum

1. a pet scheme for the solution of some problem;
2. from the Latin, “on our own” (i.e., invented and made by the seller, especially in reference to patent medicines).

II. Buffalo Bones … all the way to Medicine Hat.

III. Whangdoodles

1. mythical creatures of ill-defined characteristics, sometimes noisy, mischievous or nocturnal; 
2. apprehensions resulting from the believed perception of such creatures.

The title of Susquehannas refers in part to the convergence of streams like Cherry Valley, Lick-Run, Tunkhannock, Hop Bottom, and Tuscarora in the Eastern mountains. The early people who lived along those banks called themselves the Susquehanna.

Zeitgeist enjoyed a long association with Eric Stokes, beginning with the band’s inception in 1977. He generously served us as composer, advocate, board member, gadfly, and friend. Eric Stokes (1930–1999) studied music at Lawrence College and composition with Carl McKinley and F. Judd Cooke at the New England Conservatory and with Dominick Argento and Paul Fetler at the University of Minnesota. From 1961 to 1988 he taught at the University of Minnesota, becoming a professor in 1977. Eric Stokes’ early compositions (1955–62) are tonal and lyrical; among them, Smoke and Steel shows the interest in American subjects that became a vital aspect of his work. From 1963, Stokes’ style has expanded to include collage, theater, and mixed media pieces; these works reflect the influence of Ives in their use of stylistic juxtaposition, of Henry Brant in their spatial deployment of forces, and of American jazz, hymns, and folk songs. Stokes’ first opera Horspfal (produced by the Minnesota Opera Company in 1969) concerns the misadventures of American Indians since the coming of white men. It is a spatial work combining film and collage procedures with the vocal and instrumental forces. This unique compositional design is directed in some episodes by as many as 4 conductors assisting the principal conductor. One of his last works, a large-scale work for chorus, band, and narrator titled Out of the Cradle, was premiered by the University of Minnesota choir and wind ensemble in 2000. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *