Symphony I (Newman)
Subtitle: My Hands Are a City
1. Across the Groaning Continent - 8:20
2. The Americans - 6:10
3. My Hands Are a City - 12:40
Piccolo / Flute III
English Horn/Oboe II
Eb Soprano Clarinet
Bb Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
Bb Bass Clarinet
Bb Contrabass Clarinet
Bb Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone III (bass)
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V-VI, including:
- Bass Drum (2)
- Cymbals (crash, china, hi-hat, ride, splash, and suspended)
- Egg Shaker
- Marimba (5-octave)
- Metal (st. steel) Mixing Bowls (3 - M/L/XL)
- Snare Drum / Ride Cymbal set
- Tam-Tam (small and large)
- Timbales (H/L)
- Triangle (suspended)
- Tubular Bells
None discovered thus far.
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 Notes by Jonathan Newman
- Symphony No. 1 has been recommended as interesting, serious and distinctive music by members of the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE).
- Audio CD: My Hands Are a City: University of Georgia Wind Ensemble (John Lynch, conductor)
None discovered thus far.
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Bryan P. Sherlock, conductor) – 13 January 2019
- University of Connecticut (Mansfield) Wind Ensemble (Jeffrey Renshaw, conductor) – 12 October 2017
- Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Mallory Thompson, conductor) – 14 October 2016
- Cleveland Winds (Cleveland, Ohio) (Birch Browning, conductor) – 24 April 2016
- United States Army Band (Ft. Myer, Va.) (Richard K. Henebry, conductor) – 2 April 2016
- California Polytechnic State University, Pomona, Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Rickey Padua, conductor) - 5 March 2016 (81st Annual ABA National Convention)
- Florida State University (Tallahassee) Wind Orchestra (Richard Clary, conductor) - 27 March 2015 (2015 CBDNA National Conference, Nashville)
- James Logan Wind Symphony, WASBE Conference, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (Ramiro Barrera, conductor) - Jul 05 2009
- Indiana University Symphonic Band (Jeffrey Gershman, conductor) - Apr 23 2009
Works for Winds by this Composer
- 3 O'Clock Mix (2012)
- 1861 (2004)
- As the scent of spring rain (2003)
- Avenue X (2005)
- Blow It Up, Start Again (2012)
- Climbing Parnassus (2008)
- Concertino (flute solo, chamber winds, and piano)
- De Profundis
- Moon by Night (2001)
- Novel Romance (2018)
- OK Feel Good
- Pi’ilani and Ko’olau (2019)
- The Rivers of Bowery (2005)
- Single (2013)
- Sowing Useful Truths
- Symphony No. 1 ("My Hands Are a City")
- Tender Hearts (2019)
- Uncle Sid