There are multiple instrumentations:
8 minutes 2013, rev. 2019
3333/4331 timp+3 perc., pno, strings
or 2222/2221 timp+2 perc., pno, strings
8 minutes 2012
2222/2210/ 2 perc., pno, strings
SHADOW DANCER draws inspiration from both dance and shadow puppetry– while writing I thought about Le Chat Noir, the famous French cabaret and shadow puppetry venue frequented by composers Debussy and Satie. This famous venue lives on in poster form, peppering dorm rooms across the world. In college I worked as a modern dance class accompanist. The choreographers were unconcerned with what I played, as long as it had a steady pulse. I would watch the dancers move with and against the music—and I took that experience, that memory, and magnified to the extreme.
Shadow Dancer opens with a strobe-light pizzicato in the strings. As other instruments enter, I imagine a silhouetted dancer coming into focus. As you, the listener, acclimate to the acoustic strobe, more of the gestures of the figure becomes visible. A strobe-light illuminates slices of time, it functions as a sort of visual metronome, a device intended to keep time. In this piece, the musical layers above the strobe pull and push against that pulse, disrupting our sense of the steady downbeat. As the music progresses, the figure expands, much like a shadow cast on a wall expands as the subject approaches the light source. A question I asked myself while writing the piece, how might a disembodied shadow dancer, unencumbered by gravity, move to a piece of music?
REVIEW (read here)
CITY PULSE, Lawrence Cosentino
"In an evening devoted to Mozart and two of his latter-day successors, the biggest thrill of the night came from a young man who sat in the sixth row.
“Shadow Dancer” was a fire alarm, all right — a whacking, seven-minute wake-up call from LSO’s first-ever composer-in-residence, Patrick Harlin. After a rock-style, drumstick-clacking intro, the music bounded into symphonic dance territory, but Harlin was chasing grander game. Parrying and pivoting, skating and stopping short, over-reaching and plummeting, he sucked the audience into not just listening, but rooting for the music to find unity.
Half of the orchestra seemed to pull against the rhythm, like Prometheus straining at his chains. Percussionist Ari Hajek was in three places at once, egging everybody on with jabs and slaps and thwaps. When the chains broke, however, everything came untethered in a way that felt more disorienting than liberating. The winds and strings pushed a series of scales higher and higher until the room got eerily quiet and the icy ionosphere beckoned.
Gravity re-asserted itself, first as a rain of needle thin pulsations, thickening to big, heroic chords. It all synched up at the last micro-second, but just barely.
If “Shadow Dancer” is a fair sample, Harlin will be a tremendous asset to the symphony in the coming years. He had the Wharton Center audience swallowing a new piece of music, still flopping and wet, like a happy pelican."