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The Triangle Suite

for Flute and Electronic Instruments, by Lee Zakian

Audio CD $12

Suite for flute and electronic instruments, based on the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City

Movements I, IV, and VI: Acoustic flute, MIDI orchestra, and sound effects

Movements II and III: MIDI woodwind quintet, and sound effects

Movement V: Csound software synthesis

This composition was the subject of a Master's Thesis in Music Technology, performed at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre on May 19, 2002. Thesis

The Asch Building  New York City

photo by Stephen Ward

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire took place on March 25, 1911, on the corner of Washington Street and Greene Street, in a building  now used by NYU’s chemistry department. 146 female garment workers perished when an overcrowded and unsafe factory caught fire. 62 victims jumped to their deaths on the cobblestone street 9 floors below . Many girls were saved by climbing onto the NYU Law School building, aided by a ladder lowered to them by students attending classes on that day. The victims were mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants, between the ages of 13 and 23. Locked exit doors, flammable fabric, illegal smoking, inadequate stairways and elevators, and the lack of a sprinkler system, all contributed to the magnitude of the disaster. Ironically, the building itself was fireproof, and that is why it is still in use to this day. Groups, such as "The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union", were instrumental in preventing future tragedies in factories.

I. Overture: 5:17

A medley of 1911 music, by Joplin, Stravinsky, and Hoschna set the time for the event. Horses on cobblestone, park ambience, trolley cars, and factory noise are mixed in with three diverse melodies. JOPLIN - Treemonisha; STRAVINSKY - Petrushka; HOSCHNA - Every Little Movement Has A Meaning All Its Own.

 II. Minuet: 4:02

    II.In the classical style, innocent of the events which follow. The sounds of birds on a Spring morning open the movement, followed by a background of people at a distance, 1911 traffic, and footsteps.

III     III. Scherzo: 2:43

A small explosion in the factory heralds in a change of atmosphere. Syncopation, augmented chords, and ascending scales describe the confusion. The sound of horses, now running and neighing, accompany a faster, more intense movement than the Minuet. The background ambience of people talking takes on a more anxious quality. The movement ends with the footsteps of Patrolman Meehan racing up the stairs of the burning building, after galloping to the scene from nearby Washington Square Park.

         IV. Thud-Dead: 3:10

A blues progression in 5/4, amid the attempts of rescue and survival. The clanging of fire engines, a brief sound of the fire, a synthesized siren effect, the sounds of breaking glass, and a fire escape are interspersed with an improvised flute solo. In the background are the faint sounds of 62 thuds, a synthesized effect noting the number of girls who unsuccessfully jumped from the building.

         V. Funeral March: 2:50

The distant sound of the hymn "Praise God From Whom All  Blessings Flow" plays against the cries of anguish depicted in a modulating, accelerating 12 tone melody. Created entirely within Csound, with a synthesized vocal sound, a synthesized brass sound, reverb, and equalization.

         VI. Epilog; Used To Be: 3:12

Reflections of time past, featuring a flute solo intertwined with an ostinato bass. A quartet of MIDI instruments is blended with three Csound instruments; wind, vocal, and a space sound. A meter of 7/4 keeps a steady tempo until the ritard at the end.











































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