Student Writes Music for Geographers

Contact: Ralph Derickson


David McKee

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“It includes my impression of the river and the memories I have of growing up there. There are three distinct sections in the music that resurrect images of a Deep South slow river, with lots of kudzu, and lush green riverside banks.”

-- David McKee,
doctoral student,
School of Music,
College of Fine Arts

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 12, 2004) -- David McKee, a University of Kentucky doctoral student in the School of Music in the College of Fine Arts, has written a musical composition that will kick-off the centennial meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) this weekend in Philadelphia, Pa.

“Scenes From A River” will be played at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, March 14, at the AAG’s opening session by the Rittenhouse String Quartet based in Philadelphia.

A seven-minute composition written for piano, violin and cello, McKee said the music depicts the images he recalls of the Tennessee River that runs through his hometown of Florence, Ala. “It includes my impression of the river and the memories I have of growing up there,” McKee said.

“There are three distinct sections in the music,” McKee noted, “that resurrect images of a Deep South slow river, with lots of kudzu, and lush green riverside banks.” Specifically, the sections of the music focus on the Cypress trees that overhang the river, the high cliffs, and a Native American ceremony celebrated each year called The Dance of the Singing River, McKee said.

The music was “commissioned or more like requested” by UK geography professor Stanley Brunn who noted that the centennial of the AAG “just seemed to inspire this type of special attention.” McKee said the music had been evolving with him for several years, but the Brunn request on behalf of the AAG served as the final motivation for the completion of the piece.

McKee, who is a part-time youth choir director at First Methodist Church in Lexington, employed a creative way of writing the music that embodies the “geography aspect” and gives the composition a physical connection.

He took the geographic plot numbers from a map of the river and assigned them particular spots on his own creation of a 10-note scale. “I plotted eight longitude and eight latitude points, which gave me 16 tetrachords to work with,” McKee noted.

“Although the music does convey images of a slow river there are elements of a quick pace intertwined in it,” McKee added.

McKee has a bachelor’s degree in music from Birmingham-Southern College, Birmingham, Ala., and a master’s degree in music composition from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Ohio.

McKee will attend the AAG’s opening session to hear his piece played professionally for the fist time.


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