Symphony No. 1 (Newman)

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Jonathan Newman

Jonathan Newman

Subtitle: My Hands Are a City

General Info

Year: 2009
Duration: c. 27:40
Difficulty: VII (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: OK Feel Good Music
Cost: Parts Only - Rental ($490.00)   |   Score Only (print) - $95.00; (digital) - $24.00


1. Across the Groaning Continent – 8:20
2. The Americans – 6:10
3. My Hands Are a City – 12:40


Full Score
Flute I-II-III (III doubling C Piccolo)
Oboe I-II (II doubling English Horn)
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet (or Contrabassoon)
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
String Bass (extended low range required (low C2))
Electric Guitar
Percussion I-VI (6 players), including:

  • Bass Drum I-II
  • China Cymbals (2)
  • Claves
  • Crash Cymbals (4: 2 suspended and 1 pair concert)
  • Crotales
  • Egg Shaker
  • Glockenspiel
  • Guiro
  • Hi-hat
  • Marimba (5.0 octaves)
  • Mixing Bowls (3: medium, large and extra-large; stainless steel)
  • Ride Cymbals (3)
  • Sandpaper Blocks
  • Snare Drums (2)
  • Splash Cymbal
  • Suspended Cymbals (2)
  • Tam-tams (2: small and large)
  • Timbales (2: high and low)
  • Triangle (suspended)
  • Tubular Bells (2 sets)
  • Vibraphone
  • Wood Block
  • Xylophone


In Score:

  • Flute II, Movement 2, m.4-6: The Flute II part is missing in the score. Flute II’s m.4 is a half rest, eighth rest, dotted quarter E-flat-6 (piano), tied to a whole E-flat-6 in m.5, tied to a dotted quarter E-flat in m.6.

- Errata noted by Jonathan Newman

Program Notes

In 2005 I wrote The Rivers of Bowery, a short work celebrating a verse from Allen Ginsberg's Howl. I soon discovered that both the musical and extra-musical themes were much larger than the length allowed, and so I designed this Symphony as a complete expansion, both in thematic scope, and in musical material.

In my neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the musicians and poets and characters of our mid-Century "Beats" are still very active ghosts. I walk past the tenement where Allen Ginsberg wrote Howl, stroll across "Charlie Parker Place", and over the city streets rapturously described in prose and verse, and captured in era photos and film. Surrounded by these spirits, I structured the work in three movements, each taking on a different aspect of the sensory experiences I collected from my months of immersion in the novels, poetry, and photographs of these artists.

Titled after a line from Jack Kerouac's On the Road, the first movement opens the Symphony with the restlessness and constant drifting of a young generation terrified of stagnation. As a short burst of agitated motion, this moto perpetuo reflects Kerouac and his characters "performing our one and noble function of the time, move. And we moved!"

The second movement takes its title from Beat photographer Robert Frank's powerful collection, The Americans. In 1955, Frank traveled the country taking extraordinary photos of a nation that is actually many nations. This movement does not “describe” any of the individual photos, but rather is an attempt at an overall musical picture of the paradoxical America Frank saw: diverse, yet uniform; determined, yet lost; sated, yet unsatisfied.

The final movement, My Hands Are a City, titled after a 1955 Gregory Corso poem, overflows with mid-century American vernacular. Altered progressions from bebop tunes, and stretched out, frozen, and suspended solos from Lester Young and Charlie Parker recordings all fill out the work. In its larger scope and breadth, the movement is a summing up of the symphony's themes, both poetic and musical.

In all of it, taking material from The Rivers of Bowery happened quite naturally. The process was much like approaching my finished piece as if it was my sketchbook, and using that once-final material as the cells and harmonies to then spin out. But in the overture I concentrated on capturing Ginsberg's singing of the lost and outcast mobs of his counter-culture, in the expanded work where I was intrigued with the ever-present cloud of sadness hanging over much of the work of The Beats. It's a quiet sadness I hear even in the frantic bebop of Bird and Miles, and in my re-reading of the classic literature of the period -- perhaps adding a tinge of darkness to the colors of this Symphony.

- Program Note by composer



State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer