I. Deep Purple II. Quiet III. Since Armstrong
Full orchestra: 3 flutes (2 doubles piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd doubles English horn) 3 clarinets (doubling Eb, alto, bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 3 trumpets, 4 horns, 3 trombones, tuba, 3 percussion: [1 - vibraphone, chimes, tom-toms, suspended cymbal, tom-toms (5), bass drum, bell tree, hi-hat], [2 - suspended cymbal, snare drum, hi-hat, marimba, orchestra bells, tom-tom (low), triangle, vibraphone, sand blocks], [3 - bass drum (high, medium high), tam-tam (large), chimes, suspended cymbal, bass drum, wood block, sleigh bells, vibraphone, tom-toms], timpani, keyboard (piano, celeste, synthesizer), strings
Albany Symphony with funds from the MADADH Foundation
Albany Symphony Orchestra, Joel Revzen, conductor
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I believe it was Mikhail Glinka who said, "A nation creates music - the composer only arranges it." As I struggle with the definition of "American" music, it occurs to me that in all of our contemporary genres -- rock n' roll, blues, country and western, classical forms of music -- the dominating parameter of the music is rhythm. Rhythm is more important than pitch. This is a fundamental change in the composition of music in our century. It is, I believe, also the point of discomfort for those who define the greatness of music by its melody. We want to hear a melody like in the musics produced by the 19th century German, French, Russian, and Italian composers.
However, we live in 21st century America. Here we speak American English, an inflected, complex, rhythmic language. It contains very little traditional European melodic (pitch) content. Consider the Chick Berry lyric "Cadillac goin' 'bout ninety-five, bumper to bumper, rollin' side to side." By now, three and a half generations since its origins, the song "Maybelline" is an American classic. Its melody is PURELY rhythm. Language shapes melody. And so, the phrasing, shaping, harmonic patterns and length of 19th century European melodies, while perhaps pleasing, feel derivative in the context of contemporary musical languages.
What is lyric in our times? Where is the great American melody? Found, I would say, in the musics of Chuck Berry, Robert Lockwood, Buddy Guy, George Gershwin, James Brown, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Aaron Copland, Walter Piston, and those composers who create melodies which are defined more by their rhythm than their pitch.
My Symphony # 3: Lyric is an exploration of American melody.
- Libby Larsen
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