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City of Ambition

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Theresa Martin

Theresa Martin (trans. by composer)

General Info

Year: 2007 / 2016
Duration: c. 14:15
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Theresa Martin
Cost: Score and Parts (print) – Rental ($350.00)   |   Score Only (print) - $50.00


1. City of Ambition – 5:05
2. Night View (from Above) – 3:55
3. Steeling the Sky – 4:30


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
Euphonium I-II
Tuba I-II
String Bass
Piano (doubles Celesta)
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum (small and large)
  • Bongos
  • Brake Drum (high and low)
  • Chimes
  • China Cymbals (medium)
  • Conga (high and low)
  • Crotales
  • Djembe
  • Glockenspiel
  • Junk metals
  • Marimba
  • Ratchet
  • Sleigh Bells
  • Splash Cymbal
  • Suspended Cymbal (medium and large)
  • Tambourine
  • Temple Blocks (5)
  • Tom-Tom (3)
  • Triangle (medium and small)
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

In this work I explore the connection between sound and image, drawing my inspiration from historic photographs of New York City. Movement one is inspired by Alfred Stiegliz's 1910 photograph “City of Ambition,” which captures a view of towering skyscrapers and billowing smoke along the New York City waterfront. The beginning of the movement mimics both the shimmering surface of the water in the image as well as the photograph’s hazy appearance. Inherent in the photograph’s title is the idea of a city bustling with energy and constant activity. In this movement I seek to portray these qualities of motion through persistent rhythmic drive, metric displacement, and abrupt shifts in orchestration.

Movement two, entitled Night View (From Above), is based on Berenice Abbott’s photograph “Night View,” taken in 1932 from atop the Empire State Building. This movement is evocative of sights and sensations I imagine one might have experienced while gazing down from the top of the building. At the opening of the movement, the percussion, harp and piano suggest the glittering lights of the city through “beat interference” occurring between dissonant intervals. A sense of suspension is created through the use of unresolved harmonies, fermatas, and ringing percussion. A brief but contrasting middle section, necessary to the symmetry of the movement, provides a nightmarish interruption which gradually blurs back into the dreamlike state of the opening.

A collection of Lewis Hine photographs of steelworkers constructing the Empire State Building in 1930-31 motivated me to write the third movement, Steeling the Sky. The music depicts the complicated relationship between humans and machines. Several passages symbolize the strength, courage and toil of men as well as the fear and imminent danger posed by hazardous work. Descending gestures suggest the fear of falling, while the overall harmonic motion ascends to the instruments’ highest registers, depicting the rise of the skyscraper. The timbre of the brass instruments, historically used to recall both war and hunting, is employed here to portray the strength and courage of the workers through bold musical statements. The jarring noise and rhythmic nature of the machinery are expressed through the use of ratchet and junk metal percussion as well as by repetition of musical gestures and phrases.

The overall form of this piece is similar to a skyscraper in its design. The three movements are arranged symmetrically in terms of tempo, with a slow second movement between fast first and third movements. All three movements have sections which climb stepwise through key areas, as if reaching toward the sky. The overall harmonic gesture of the piece is ascending as well, beginning in C-sharp minor and ending in D major. If ambition is defined as the desire to achieve a particular goal, then this piece achieves that goal, harmonically, in the end, with its half-step resolution.

- Program Note by composer


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Missouri, Kansas City, Wind Ensemble (Joseph Parisi, conductor) - 18 October 2022
  • Oregon State University (Corvallis, Or.) Wind Ensemble (Erik Leung, conductor) - 10 March 2020
  • Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisc.) Wind Ensemble (Andrew Mast, conductor) – 19 October 2019
  • University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) Wind Ensemble (Emily Threinen, conductor) – 27 September 2019
  • Texas State University (San Marcos) Wind Ensemble (Caroline Beatty, conductor) – 22 February 2019 (CBDNA 2019 National Conference, Tempe, Ariz.)
  • Texas State University (San Marcos) Wind Symphony (Caroline Beatty, conductor) - 15 February 2019 (2019 TMEA Conference, San Antonio)
  • University of Wisconsin Fox Valley Concert Band (Marc Sackman, conductor) – 6 May 2016 *Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by This Composer