Past Projects

None of the Above

The audacious, ground-breaking chamber music of American iconoclast Frank Zappa.

“The pieces are fiendishly difficult to execute, with lots of surface complexity to dazzle the ear… Brian Coughlin, Fireworks’ director and bass player, produced some hell-for-leather arrangements that the players, relaxed and grooving, played the heck out of, down to show-stopping solos in ‘The Purple Lagoon/Approximate’.” —Anne Midgette, The New York Times

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Extraordinary for their ability to balance virtuosity and mind-boggling complexity with pop vitality, Zappa’s works for instrumental ensemble proved that the rock band could be a vehicle for both powerful, visceral music and serious composition. Blurring the lines between jazz, rock, and contemporary classical music, Zappa’s music forged an identity all its own; on a list of categories, it remains “None of the Above.” In collaboration with the Zappa Family Trust, Fireworks had the rare honor of being able to create and present new arrangements of works left unperformed at the time of Zappa’s untimely death, along with favorites such as Big Swifty, Drowning Witch, The Black Page, and King Kong.


Cartoon

A celebration of the golden age of animation and the music it inspired.

“A program proving that beloved cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny and Road Runner have provided more than laughs. Where else could one have heard such richly varied and perfectly executed scores where bits of classical, opera, jazz, folk, and schmaltz combined with such telling effects? ‘Cartoon’ was serious fun of the highest — and funniest — order.” —Chuck Berg, Topeka Capital-Journal

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Cartoon traces the development of one of America’s great musical legacies. Characterized by clever quotation, quick cuts between far-ranging musical styles, and carefree juxtapositions of jarring dissonant effects with melodious popular song, the scores for animation shorts from the MGM and Warner Bros. studios from the 1930s through the 1950s were not only some of the most interesting and vibrant music of its time, but also a foreshadowing of the pastiche and juxtaposition techniques of avant-garde composers decades later. From the breakneck cartoon jazz of depression-era bandleader Raymond Scott, through ingenious scores by Carl Stalling, Scott Bradley, and Milt Franklyn, to contemporary works by John Adams and John Zorn, Cartoon shows how the legacy of Bugs and Daffy lives on not only in childhood memories, but also in the music of today.


Dance Mix

Seven hundred years of dance music from around the world.

“Playing everything from electric guitars to an orange kazoo, they romped through Norwegian folk songs, a Bollywood film score, some baroque dance music, and a Duke Ellington classic, even taking a stab at the dance club electronica of Aphex Twin—cleverly reverse-engineered for acoustic instruments. It was as fresh and fun as it sounds.” —Stephen Brookes, The Washington Post

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Dance Mix presents both a panorama of Western dance music—from the sounds of peasant lutes and viols to the opulence of the Baroque court, from genteel Classical minuets to boisterous Viennese polkas, and from big band swing rhythms to contemporary techno—and a world tour of dance traditions—from the euphoric rhythms of Africa to the sultry tangos of Argentina, from the exotic sounds of Bollywood to the expansive serenity of Scandinavia, and from the ecstatic gypsy fiddles of Eastern Europe to the steel drums of the Caribbean, all arranged for Fireworks’ unique, genre-crossing instrumentation by Fireworks director Brian Coughlin.


The Rite of Spring

A rock-inspired chamber version of Stravinsky’s iconic masterpiece.

“This simply has to be heard to be believed; the music sounds completely contemporary in this orchestration, and one hears things one never has before. It’s a gamble that triumphs.” —Robert Carl, Fanfare Magazine

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Fireworks’ interpretation of The Rite of Spring brings a 21st century sensibility to Stravinsky’s early twentieth-century orchestral magnum opus. While staying true to the spirit of Stravinsky’s conception, Brian Coughlin’s stripped-down, rock-inspired chamber version presents the piece as if it was a piece of contemporary music conceived for amplified chamber ensemble. Fireworks often presents The Rite of Spring as part of a larger program called Classical Covers, featuring reinventions of other great works from the Western Classical canon, including Coughlin’s arrangements of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, Perotin’s Sederunt, and Bach’s The Art of the Fugue, and Mauricio Kagel’s postmodern mashup of Beethoven symphonies, Ludwig van.


Pyrotechnics

Fireworks’ ongoing project to commission new works and perform masterworks from the last fifty years.

“Winning acclaim from critics and fans around the country, Fireworks has become one of the most exciting bands in postclassical music… The group (which might be mistaken for an alt rock band if you spotted them on the street) can handle a wide variety of repertoire. Anyone who likes classical and edgy contemporary music should catch this [ensemble] and see firsthand evidence that postclassical music is alive and rocking.” —Brett Campbell, Eugene Weekly

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Through its Pyrotechnics project, Fireworks has presented programs of music as far ranging as Morton Feldman’s Projections, Luciano Berio’s Sequenzas, and Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, and has commissioned dozens of works by both emerging composers and established masters such as Glenn Branca, Scott Johnson, and David Del Tredici. The ensemble’s recording of Del Tredici’s A Field Manual, commissioned in 2009, was released by Entertainment One in 2016.