Mulholland Drive is about a unique place: a hilltop highway that twists and turns for miles though the middle of the great metropolis of Los Angeles. Like a river made of the earth, it binds together all of those for whom it is almost a natural desire to be near the summit, to see the great city spread out before you and to encompass millions of people in a glance. Yet at the same time, it is a place where one can be alone with nature and contemplate, hidden momentarily from the city and surrounded by natural and wild beauty contemplated from the road itself on a cliff side, or immersed in wildness on a remote hiking trail from which it is hard to believe you are in the middle of a world class city.
It is a place of dreams and a place of aspiration as tourists come to gawk at the hilltop mansions of the "gods." It is also a place of loneliness and at the same time a place that is communal. Here, a musician can park their car at night and perform solo for the stars in the sky and for the silent millions asleep among the twinkling city lights or gliding along in their cars, and one person can embrace the sky and the sea in the distance and the mountains on the distant horizon and the vast plains of the "LA basin."
Mulholland Drive is built from some of those memories and experiences. The opening evokes a morning where I experienced the sun rise over the hills of Los Angeles, so bright it was blinding, and seemed like a challenge of the earth to anyone who dares to ascend to the very ceiling of life.
As the sun gives birth to a new day, a yearning long melody emerges. The theme grows, it travels, it picks up speed, it pauses for dramatic emphasis, as if on a metaphorical road of life's ambitions, hopes, desires, and fears. Contrasting themes and sections include a falling lyrical motif and an insistent questioning motto. As this "drama" grows, we also hear increasing hints of solos, the individual contemplating the view and their place in it. This tension grows to a fiery climax, then perhaps the sun sets, and as it does, the individual emerges: an oboe player next to their car at night playing to the stars, which develops into a mournful chorale, expressing one person's soul.
Mulholland Drive is in a somewhat relaxed sonata form suitable for a tone-poem, and the "recapitulation" (the return of the main theme) is now heard as an individual, a violin solo, instead of the collective. Ultimately, the transition from personal, solo thoughts returns to being part of millions in a great city. The full orchestra returns, from its journey, now in unison and playing a simple tune, almost a "hymn" that all take part in, as the work ends with the sunrise of a new day and a new beginning.
In composing the work, I was not conscious of any specific detailed program or desire to "tone paint, except perhaps for the recollection of the blinding sunrise above Mulholland Drive I experienced, and the true story of a friend who one starry night on Mulholland came across her brother, a famous oboe player, next to his car, playing to the night stars. I have seen other musicians "play to the universe" on Mulholland, including a clarinetist by his car, and a drummer who set up his full kit on the edge of a cliff joyously rocking out, and a singer-songwriter hiking while playing guitar and singing at the top of his lungs, with an audience of wildflowers and wildlife.
LA is a car culture and Mulholland Drive is a glamorous and wild road with few stop signs or traffic lights. The frenetic development of the theme leading to the orchestral climax half way through could be interpreted as evoking a wild ride in a speeding car on the steep winding highway, which is an LA pastime on weekend nights. Mulholland Drive attracts those who crave danger, the location can inspire wild behavior in those for whom a curving road in the dark beckons challenge and a way to escape the enormous city via thrill seeking. One night around 2:30am I heard a speeding screeching roaring car crash down onto the hillside, quickly followed by the deafening thunder of rescue helicopters in pitch darkness. Hikers may still stumble upon decades-old rusted hulks of cars, and pause to wonder if the occupants paid the ultimate price for a racing thrill on a mountain side, perhaps as an escape from a humdrum life in the valleys far below?
Also "classic LA" is parking by the cliff-side to enjoy the incredible and romantic nighttime visual symphony of stars above and city lights below. I will leave it up to the listener to hear the heart and soul of these visions of LA in their own way. Mulholland Drive is about an untamed wild place within a vast city, which means it is ultimately about each of us, separate, apart, yet together, wandering along trails with unknown paths in front of us, each seeking our own summit.
Mulholland Drive is also the finale movement in an orchestral trilogy titled Three Places in Los Angeles (the title is an hommage to Charles Ives' Three Places in New England), three works that may be performed separately or together including The Lake at Franklin Canyon; Laurel Canyon and Mulholland Drive.
MULHOLLAND DRIVE - for Orchestra (2021)
by Corey Field
2 Clarinets in Bb (2nd doubling Bass Clarinet in Bb)
4 Horns in F
3 Trumpets in C
2 Tenor Trombones
Percussion (3 players):
Glockenspiel, Crash Cymbals, Suspended Cymbal, Triangle, Tamtam, Vibraphone, Bass Drum
duration ca. 12 1/2 minutes
Recording on First Leaf Music label:
Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra
Conducted by Stanislav Vavřínek
Violin Solo - Jakub Černohorský
Oboe Solo - Dušan Foltýn
Produced by Jan Košulič
Recording with Scrolling Score on Youtube:
The full score is available at Issuu: