ORCHESTRA - Slides (2003) Program Notes

I. Resignation to Alarm
II. Bridge of Sighs
III. Saw/See 

Program Note

"Slides" was commissioned by the New Jersey Symphony, for premiere on March 6-9, 2003 at the NJPAC Center, Newark, Carlos Kalmar, conductor. Each movement of Slides attempts to capture a different facet of the human voice: moans, groans, and screams in the first movement, lyricism and song in the second, rap and rhythmic banter in the third. These gestures and inflections, interpreted by symphonic instruments, are mediated by the extensive possibilities—and the technical limitations—of the orchestra. The forms of all three movements are dictated by the call-and-response of the various choirs.

"Resignation to Alarm" maintains an organic feel of rubato throughout. The entire movement, like most of the gestures contained within it, begins somewhat hesitantly, quickens a bit as it gains in intensity, and slows down towards the conclusion, like a lung expanding with air and contracting.

"Bridge of Sighs" is based on a 1960 live rendition of “Loverman” by Sarah Vaughan. Aside from the exquisite swoops and glides, what struck me was the charged intensity in each moment; each supplication was filled with longing for a future which would never be realized, but which was nonetheless infinitely seductive and real. Among the phrases I extracted were “loverman, oh where can you be?” and “someday we’ll meet and you’ll dry all my tears.” Around them I built a musical framework, including a refrain from the ubiquitous “sharp 9” chord which creates a sort of bridge between the musical sighs and pleas.

"Saw/See" is based on the flow of rap lyrics. Again in this movement, pitch is subordinated to the contour and cadence of the musical phrase. I wrote musical“rhymes” which evolve gradually from fragments in the strings. Eventually these fragments become linchpins of rhythm and structure; hesitancy gives way to groove, and the movement culminates in a thick soup of funk.

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