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Godzilla Eats Las Vegas

It took me seven years to get my bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. By the time I graduated I was ready to eat Las Vegas.

Tom Leslie asked me to write another piece for the group as I was leaving, and I thought it would be a blast to do something completely ridiculous. The players are called upon to scream in terror, dress like Elvises (Elvi), and play in about thirty different styles from mambo to cheesy lounge music. The audience follows a ‘script’ that I wrote simulating a campy, over the top Godzilla movie (is there any other kind?).

I wrote the bulk of the piece while in my first year at Juilliard, and no kidding, I used to act out the script every morning devouring animal crackers, wreaking havoc all over the breakfast table. The ‘script’ was originally twice as long, and had an entire subplot devoted to a young scientist and his love interest. As I started to finish the piece, however, it didn’t seem that funny and that story (along with an extended Elvis tribute) ended up on the cutting room floor.

The idea that this piece is being played all over the world in such serious concert venues is the single funniest thing I have ever heard. It has been played on the steps of the Capitol by the United States Marine Band, by the Scottish National Wind Symphony (they play in kilts, so help me God), and I have a video of a Japanese audience visibly confused and shaken by the whole experience. Can you imagine? I’m laughing my head off even as I write this!

Godzilla Eats Las Vegas! was commissioned by the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Thomas G. Leslie, conductor, and received its premiere November 28th, 1996.

The performers are encouraged to go crazy: wear showgirl costumes, Elvis costumes, act out scenes on stage, use video and lighting – anything to get a laugh. Here is the script that the audience follows while the piece is being performed:

Part One

FADE UP
It is a Bright and Sunny day as the sequined curtain rises on tinsel town, and the excitement of a new day filled with the possibility of The Big Payoff is practically palpable. The band kicks off the show in high gear and all is well as we suddenly hear:

CUT TO DESERT
A lone shakuhachi flute usher the arrival of something really VERY bad.

CUT BACK TO BAND
A relaxed rhumba. showgirls blissfully jiggle.

CUT TO MILITARY COMMAND CENTER (stock footage)
Morse code signals the confirmation of approaching doom.

CUT BACK TO BAND
The players finish off their third set and head for the bar; outside we hear:

SLOW ZOOM
Oh no, oh no, oh no, it’s:

CLOSE UP
Godzilla! Glorious Godzilla!

VARIOUS QUICK CUTS (stock footage)
Godzilla destroys cars, screaming tourists, ect.

CUT BACK TO BAND
The band, quasi Greek Chorus, calls for Godzilla to Mambo.

GODZILLA, FULL FRAME
Godzilla mambos, casually crushing hysterical Vegans without missing a step.

EXTREME CLOSE UP
A tiny terrier barking bravely, then:

CUT BACK TO GODZILLA
Demolishing everything in his path… not even the doggie escapes!

WIDE PAN
As Godzilla heads down the strip, searching relentlessly for:

CLOSE UP (stock footage)
Frank Sinatra (Stomped!)

CLOSE UP (stock footage)
Wayne Newton (Stamped!)

CLOSE UP (stock footage)
Liberace (Stepped upon!)

VARIOUS CUTS
The Village Gods destroyed, Godzilla continues his carnage until the City of Sin is leveled!

Part Two

FADE UP
A fearless army of Elvises (Elvi) appear in the distance, formation marching through the littered streets

VARIOUS CLOSE UPS
The Elvi attack, using bombers, missiles, ect.

EXTREME CLOSE UP
One wicked laugh from Godzilla and the Elvi scatter like mice!

QUICK CUT (stock footage)
The Sphinx sits outside The Luxor, looking seductive in a Mae West sort of way.

CLOSE UP
Godzilla takes one look and his eyes pop out of his head.

QUICK CUTS
The Sphinx (Sphinxtress?) seduces the Reptile, who instantly falls in love and begins to…

WIDE SHOT
…tango with her.

SPLIT SCREEN
As they dance, the Elvi slowly regroup and head for the:

QUICK CUT (stock footage)
Pirate ships at Treasure Island

ACTION SEQUENCE (MONTAGE)
The Elvi approach the dancing monster and launch a ferocious volley of cannonballs directly at him.

QUICK CLOSE UPS
The cannonballs find their mark, and Godzilla:

WIDE SHOT
Falls to the ground, annihilated. The Elvi are triumphant!

CROSSFADE
The lounge is open again, and the city of Las Vegas toasts the victory. The scene climaxes with:

VARIOUS CUTS (stock footage)
People happy, tearful, ect. Stock footage, stock music.

SLOW FADE OUT AND FADE UP
A dark, ominous, and very familiar sound…

SLOW ZOOM
Godzilla lives! Godzilla lives! Complete terror (possible sequel?).

WIDE SHOT
The Show is over. The End.

FADE TO BLACK

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  • Brad Sampson

    My first concert in high school we played "Godzilla." What an impressive introduction to Eric Whitacre! Really, a fun piece, especially for the horn section.

  • Timothy Lenk

    I played this at a summer music camp (MusiCamp Alberta). It was the single most fun I have ever had performing.

  • Bob Coats

    I have used the godzilla calls with begining hornists to increase their range, their stamina, and their ability to annoy their families…

  • http://www.lorykt.com Lory Y. Kitamura-Tintor

    I would love to see this incredibly “visual” music set to Japanese anime – Godzilla notwithstanding – it’d be a hoot! All those Elvi…and Toto, too.

  • Sarah Ann

    Oh, wow! I wish I had been at my High School last year, as they played this!!! Gah! I'm desperate to try it sometime!!!

  • Alicia

    So, my high school band played this when i was a freshman, for our spring (aka For Fun) Concert. We, the colorguard, were enlisted to be the actors. I was an Elvis, and we called ourselves "Elvi" but I didn't know anyone else did that, or even that it was written like that! Our band director tried to find a dinosaur costume from the drama department, but the only one he could find anywhere was a Barney-type costume. It was smiling…and yet, we still scared a 5-year-old in the audience! That was one of the most fun concerts we've ever done!!

  • Mikayla Johnson

    I'm a highschool music student up in Canada, and when I listened to this the first time, I ran to my band teacher and begged to do it. Looking forward to the challenge come next September! =)

  • Daniel Elliott

    I'm a Senior in HS and we're currently working on this piece. What a blast! I play clarinet 1 and I've JUST ABOUT got the portamento down ;P It's SO SO SOOOO much fun! Thanks, Eric! :)

  • sarah mcpherren

    We played this piece my second semester as a freshman in college. I like that the tuba part is not so cut and dry tuba part. ( As you can tell I am a tuba player.)

    Thank You Mr. Whitacre for all your music. It gives the musician a chance to share their love of music.

    Sarah McPherren

  • Christina Early

    Our spring concert for my community orchestra is playing this and /i love every second of this. I wish we had a real theremin for the show because that would be terrific

  • Shaun Gonzalez

    My HS wind ensamble is palying this song this year at my spring concert. it the funnest thing i have ever played.and i dont think i will ever play anything like it ever again.Thank You Mr. Whitacre for all your music its amazing!

    Shaun Gonzalez

  • Justin

    “I used to act out the script every morning devouring animal crackers, wreaking havoc all over the breakfast table”

    I saw that and I laughed, not because of the fact you did that, but I can clearly see you doing that sort of thing :) Us Musicians are so crazy I love it :D

  • Samie Anderson

    We played this in Wind Ensemble my junior year in high school. I rocked the bass clarinet, fearlessly, I might add! What a great song, I got choked up listening to it! Memories.

  • Brandon Lauretic

    We played this my senior year in high school. By far one of the more fun pieces I’ve ever played!

  • Danny

    I love this piece, is fantastic. I never played this work, but I listen a lot of music and I love wind orchestra original music. I never find a score.

  • Brian

    I have found my new favorite piece of band music. Thank you, Eric!

  • Nathan

    Incredible piece. I played timpani for this particular song and, for a 4-timpani set, this was one of the most difficult songs I’ve played. You are constantly thinking measures ahead about what drum to tune to what pitch so that you don’t have to stop. It was a great break from the standard 4 and 5 note tuning. Thank you.

  • http://www.harmonielaval.org Patrick Morin

    Mr Whitacre
    We are about to play your master pice GODZILLAS in Laval (just near montreal). In the score your are saying that there is program notes to write in the program. Unfortunately, they are no program notes. Is there a way you can send me some? tha concert is this week. Thanks for the fun you bring to people who are playing your music. Its just wonderful
    Patrick Morin
    conductor

  • Ariel

    I was the lucky horn player for my band in this song, has to be my favorite!!!!!

  • emmanuel

    awesome dude dramatic changes lots of action the screaming part awesome

  • mia

    it scared me at the beginigng

  • Allison Parks

    This piece is a work of absolute pure genius! I love it! I wish my band was good enough to play it!

  • Sydd

    I’ve been working up a slide presentation for a local high school performance of this piece and had a few notes:

    First, seriously? Sinatra, Wayne Newton and Liberace? 2 of the 3 are dead and Wayne’s getting up there. I understand the reason you used them because they have easily recognizable signature songs, perhaps to my parents’ and barely my generation, but otherwise it’s all kind of dated for today’s crowd.

    Second: the sphinx at the Luxor is a dude! As are most Egyptian sphinxes (sphinxen?) The Greek ones were female. And seriously, a Mae West sort of way? Her movie career was mostly over before Godzilla’s started. That’s another reference kids today won’t get.

    Finally, you hint at a possible sequel at the end, might I suggest considering a Godzilla Eats Vegas II with more contemporary performers being stomped? (I can just see the Blue Man Group oozing from between his claws, it would be a purplish goo wouldn’t it … think about it.) Perhaps he’s defeated this time by magicians after being distracted by comedians or certainly showgirls, who look both mesmerizing and delicious. There are other musical styles to explore too, there have been a number of pop and country music head liners there over the years.

    • Ethan

      Please keep in mind that Eric wrote the script for a university ensemble in 1993, so the majoruty of the references were quite known for the group. As well as the sexe of the sphinx shouldn’t matter to be honest, most people view it as a female now for unbeknownst reasoning. Albeit I do agree that a sequel with more dated references would be very nice to see. (Keep in mind this would at one point become outdated as well).

      -ET

  • Sharon

    My grandson’s high school performed Godzilla Eats Las Vegas at their spring concert last night. What fun for the band and the audience. I loved it! Thank you thank you.

  • Jamie

    I found this on Grooveshark, and it was mis-labeled as being a Leroy Anderson piece. I had never heard it before. I just clicked on it and let it play without doing ANY research. Why would I bother?
    So you can imagine the mental gymnastics I went through trying to fit this piece into Anderson’s realm. At first, it sounds like it could work stylistically. But then it makes a left turn at about 2:00 in, and that’s where I finally turned to Google.

    It’s kind of like drinking what you think is root beer but is actually cola. Your mind TRIES to make it work. But in the end, you wise up.

  • http://polgfred.tumblr.com/ Frederick Polgardy

    Did you say crushing Vegans? Does PETA have anything to say about that?

  • Emily Adrienne Murray

    I laughed obnoxiously whenever I got to, “The Sphinx sits outside The Luxor, looking seductive in a Mae West sort of way.”

About Eric

Eric Whitacre is one of the most popular and performed composers of our time, a distinguished conductor, broadcaster and public speaker. His first album as both composer and conductor on Decca/Universal, Light & Gold, won a Grammy® in 2012, reaped unanimous five star reviews and became the no. 1 classical album in the US and UK charts within a week of release... view full bio