August 6, 2013: I am pleased to announce that my SYMPHONY No. 1: DREAM DIALOGS is now complete! Done! In the can! In composer circles, we often post “Double Bar” at this time, as a way to indicate that we have written the final double bar that indicates the end of the piece. I actually wrote my double bar a while ago, but in keeping with tradition I have titled this post as such.
What a journey it has been, from sketching my initial ideas in early April to the days and days of editing this past month. I have to say (and it is NOT my wish to sound arrogant or egotistical here…but…) I think it all turned out pretty damn well! Truly – I am very, very pleased with the end result. Trust me – this is not always the case. There have been many times where, upon completing a piece, I take a look at it and say “well, at least it doesn’t *completely* suck.” Not this time. I can safely say that, in my humble opinion, none of this piece “sucks.” Needless to say, I have high hopes for it.
So – what next? Well, first the piece has to be printed off. I have sent all of the files off to my publisher, Noah Luna of Beauty in Cacophony Press (http://beta.bcpmusic.org/), and eagerly await seeing the music in print. Once I receive the printed music, I will be handing it off to Thomas Loewenheim so he may begin rehearsing it with the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra.
Which brings me to the premiere! Mark your calendars: the Symphony will be premiered here in Fresno on November 23rd, at 8:00 pm by the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra. If you are anywhere in California, consider checking this performance out! Fresno is, at most, six hours from ANYWHERE in the state (perhaps the only advantage of being centrally located…).
And then, of course, there are subsequent performances. Right now, I have the Cornell Orchestra lined up to play the work in the Spring of 2015. Still, I am actively seeking out other orchestras to perform the work, so if you are reading this and happen to conduct an orchestra – contact me! I am more than happy to provide a perusal PDF of the score to anyone who asks (well, actually, BCP will provide the perusal score – scroll to the bottom of this post for more information).
OK – that ends the shameless self-promotion portion of this blog.
So, now that it is done you might be wondering what this piece all about! Well, allow me to post the program notes. These notes are not exactly poetry, but they should give you a good idea of what I was thinking while writing the work (and to paraphrase Dr. McCoy: “Dammit Jim, I am a composer, not a creative writer!”):
“Music is considered a fundamental part of our human existence. There is not a single culture on our planet that lacks music. Some scholars describe music as a “universal language,” capable of transcending all other languages. However, while it can be easily demonstrated that music communicates on an emotional level, what it specifically communicates is abstract and non-translatable. We can listen to music and appreciate its beauty, its intensity, or its subtlety – but we cannot directly translate it into a story without superimposing another language through either written or sung words.
My SYMPHONY No. 1 is inspired by this innate property of music to speak on a completely abstract and non-literal level. The form of each of the three movements is generated by taking this property and interjecting dialog patterns found in three very different forms of communication. The resulting music takes on an other-worldly quality, at once recognizable as a dialog, and yet completely distant and incomprehensible, as if taking place in a dream.
The first movement of the SYMPHONY, Thought in Process, is inspired by patterns of thought that mimic my own personal inner-dialog. The movement begins with a collection of incomplete motives, representing partial thoughts flitting in and out of consciousness. Over the course of the first section, a single motive emerges as a principle idea. This idea becomes an obsession, a musical thought that refuses to vanish regardless of the presence of other ideas. The music builds in intensity, utilizing repetition and ostinato as a way to highlight and enhance the obsession, pushing it forward towards an aggressive and agitated climax. After an explosion of frustration, the music slowly calms down and retreats back to the quietude that began the movement.
Spinning Yarns, the second movement, is inspired by the jazz concept of “trading fours” in which the drummer performs a series of brief solos that alternate with solos by the rest of the ensemble. This concept is related to the musical tradition of “call and response,” a method of music-making that directly imitates human dialog. Unlike traditional trading fours, the call and response found in this movement is between all sections of the orchestra, not just the percussion (although the trading does begin there). The form of the movement is divided up into three large sections, which can be further divided into thirteen separate “strands.” Each of these strands, with the exception of the middle seventh one, is presented in varied repetition by different sections of the orchestra. The three larger sections represent a more traditional arch form (ABA’), with the two A sections each mirroring one another and the B section representing a mid-point climax of the work.
The third movement, At a Loss for Words, is both the most programmatic and emotional of the three movements. The form of the movement loosely mirrors a made-up conversation between two unidentified individuals. The conversation is difficult to understand, although it is clear that there is a emotional conflict between the two parties. This conflict builds organically, slowly introducing musical material in a hesitating and careful manner, and intensifying as “details of the dialog” emerge through thematic development. An “argument” ensues in the middle section of the movement, represented by a sudden increase in overall intensity and a quicker tempo. The argument builds until one voice explodes through a rather frantic and uncontrolled trombone solo. This explosion of anger is followed by a surprising moment of understanding between the two parties. A peaceful and introverted song that incorporates both voices concludes the movement, interrupted ever-so-briefly by a fleeting but intrusive thought from the first movement.”
So, there you have it! A completed symphony, a premiere date, future plans, and some program notes to boot! I want to extend my thanks to Thomas Loewenheim, Noah Luna, Chris Kim, all the members of the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra, my Facebook supporters, and most of all my wife Jennifer! Without all of your support, this Symphony would not have happened.
I also want to extend my thanks to all of you who have been reading this blog. It means a lot to me that you all have been taking time out from your lives to read up on my progress. Not to add yet another cliché to my writing (why stop now?), but writing this Symphony was truly a labor of love. It has been my pleasure to share this process with all of you.
P.S.: As mentioned above, here is some information on obtaining the score. For more information about my SYMPHONY NO. 1, including rentals and perusal scores, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.