06 May 2019
Salt Lake Tribune – 13 orchestras wanted to celebrate the transcontinental railroad. The composer traveled, studied — and listened to Utah 4th graders.
A dash and two dots. Three dashes. A dash and a dot. A single dot.
In Morse code, those signals spell the word D-O-N-E. That was the short, simple message sent by telegraph to the east and west coasts from Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, after the ceremonial “last spike” of the transcontinental railroad was replaced by an ordinary iron spike.
To composer Zhou Tian, those four letters aren’t just text. “They’re a very excited and musical rhythm,” Zhou said in a phone interview from his home in Michigan.
That rhythm is the repeated motif of the third movement of “Transcend,” an orchestral work Zhou has written to commemorate the transcontinental railroad on its 150th anniversary. The Utah Symphony, one of 13 orchestras in cities along the railroad’s route that commissioned it, will play the work in concert on May 17 and 18 at Abravanel Hall — one of the many events in May marking the sesquicentennial.