This piece was written for my good friends of the Tesla String Quartet. And (not coincidentally) it is meant to be a musical portrait of the famed scientist, Nikola Tesla. Tesla was famous for many inventions and discoveries, including alternating current, wireless radio transmission, and even a fabled death ray. The title “Great Danger, Keep Out” is a variation on a sign that was posted outside of his Colorado Springs laboratory, which housed an fifty-seven-foot tesla coil (one of Tesla’s more famous inventions) that reportedly generated the largest manmade lightning bolts to this day (and was also the cause of a citywide blackout). The music is greatly inspired by the following account of the phenomenon by Tesla biographers, Hunt and Draper:
The crackling and snap repeated and then came a tremendous upsurge of sound as the power built up. There was a crescendo of vicious snaps above. The noises became machine-gun staccato, then roared to artillery intensity. Ghostly sparks danced a macabre routine all over the laboratory. There was a smell of sulfur that might be coming from hell itself. A weird blue light spread all over the room. Flames began to jump from the ball at the top of the mast- first a few feet long- then longer and brighter- thicker, bluer. More emanations until they reached rod like proportions thick as an arm and with a length of over 130 feet. The heavens reverberated with a terrific thunder that could be heard 15 miles over the ridge to Cripple Creek.
While the programmatic “electrifying” essence of the work is clearly evident, I also wanted to include a few “easter eggs” about Tesla’s life, in order to more faithfully represent the famous inventor. These include things like his lifelong obsession with the number three (many of the melodies are based off of thirds; the tritone features prominently in harmonic and melodic material) and the opening tempo indication (“With vigor and vitality”), which is a direct quote spoken by Samuel Clemens upon experiencing some of the therapeutic vibrations caused by one of Tesla’s oscillators.00.-gdko_FULL-SCORE
Written for the Tesla Quartet