RACE CAR by Scott Watson (Alfred, Young Symphonic Series, Grade 2)

Recording on Alfred's YouTube Channel - Listen to the piece and view the score on Alfred's YouTube channel.

Hopefully, the piece RACE CAR, has enough musical excitement and interest on its own. Nonetheless, RACE CAR is a piece with so much more beneath the surface! The words RACE CAR are a palindrome; that is, they read the same forwards and backwards. Here are instances of the concept of PALINDROME at work in the composition, RACE CAR:

1) FORM - The overall form of the composition is A - B - A

2) The seminal rhythm of both A sections is a palindrome:

3) The B section is a "race car ricercar"! That is, it is a fugatto in which most of the instrument parts contain one or more series of palindromes melodies. For instance, here is the Clarinet 1 part in the B section. There are two palindromes: 1 to 9 and then 9 to 1; and 1 to 16 and then 16 to 1. Note, the pickup to this section - a G - is not shown. In the piece, both palindromes (the 9-note one and the 16-note one) are sounded simultaneously, along with a third palindromic series of notes as a "crab (retrograde) canon."

4) Furthermore, when you transpose the main fugatto theme so it begins on the pitch D, the notes spell out "Race Car," similar to the Renaissance practice of "Soggetto Cavato." I had to contrive things a bit here: the note equivalent for "R" is D since it is "Re" in fixed Do solfege.
Race Car Fugatto Theme.jpg

Order Race Car at J.W. Pepper

Complete Program Notes

The skill and thrill of auto racing is captured musically in this piece via it's infectious groove and exciting syncopations. Written in one continuous movement, its sections (Start Your Engines!, They're Off!, Pit Stop, Back On Track, and Finish Line) will help you imagine sitting behind the wheel of a powerful and agile racing machine over the course of a breathtaking speed contest. The palindromic nature of the title, Race Car (which reads the same forwards and backwards), is exploited musically throughout. Use of palindrome includes a pervasive syncopated ostinato rhythm, it's overall A-B-A form, and a fugatto section at the center of the work (Pit Stop) in which virtually each instrumental part is a palindrome! The pit crew is suggested in this section, a "race car ricercar," by use of mechanical-sounding percussion (ratchet, brake drum). Race Car was commissioned for and premiered by the Shepherd Middle School Band (Ottawa, Illinois) to mark its final concert with long-time director, Ms. Donna Martin.