Symphony #3 in E minor (Made in America) | Music | Classical

Symphony #3 in E minor (Made in America)

Symphony #3 in E minor (Made in America) JD-155
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James Domine - Symphony #3 in E minor (Made in America)

194 pages

I. Radio Waves 

II. Anthem 

III. Games 

IV. Finale: A Call to Arms

The Symphony #3 in E minor by James Domine is a judiciously analytical  compendium of performance practices associated with American popular music.  For that reason the piece is subtitled “Made in America.” The composer employs a  spectrum of melodic modes and characteristic rhythms that together comprise a  unique musical statement that is uncharacteristically at home in both the  symphonic and popular music worlds.

Sketches for the symphony were originally intended to serve as the basis for a  concerto that would feature the San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra in a live  concert with the vintage rock band, Vanilla Fudge. This concert eventually  materialized in a live performance and is evidenced in the DVD recording  currently available as “When Worlds Collide.” Paucity of rehearsal time however  prohibited the full execution of a new piece and what remained of the concerto  project eventually found its way into the Symphony #3. Along with echoes of the  Vanilla Fudge, the astute listener will also hear ephemeral paraphrases of other  rock bands of the period, as well as symphonic allusions to music by Handel,  Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Ravel. This symphony represents a  complex confluence of quintessentially classical compositional styles that combine  to form a unique orchestral tapestry steeped in idiomatic American pop music  techniques.

The first movement, “Radio Waves” is cast in the traditional sonata form. The  principal theme is first stated in the trombones framed by a fanfare that sets the  tone for the movement. The tempo is marked “Allegro assai” and the attitude is  that of a song heard on AM radio. The contrastingly mellow second theme is  played by the cellos supported by the woodwinds, pizzicato strings and the harp,  creating an atmosphere reminiscent of a Motown hit. The codetta is set to a hard  rock beat that increases in orchestral density until it ultimately reaches a dramatic  point of no return in repeated dissonant clashing chords of conflict. 

The development section juxtaposes the two main themes in a dialogue that  evolves through eight entangled sequential episodes winding in the fullness of time  to the recapitulation. The first theme returns not as originally stated in the  exposition, but rather twice as fast in diminution played by the first violins doubled  by the clarinet. The second theme emerges in the tonic key played by the cellos  and in the second strain is taken up by the violins. The rock ‘n’roll rhythm of the  coda compels the movement to its inexorable conclusion.

The “Anthem” is a series of nine variations on the Gospel tune “People Get  Ready.” The successive variations are framed by an introduction and three  interludes that function as ritornelli and a coda that completes the setting. After the  introduction, the theme is stated in a stripped-down straightforward mono-linear  way by the cellos and basses, then by the English horn and violas accompanied by  two bassoons. This is followed by a quasi-improvised woodwind section with the  strings providing harmonic support. The trombones and timpani follow with an  interlude that leads to a simple harmonization of the melody in the strings. A  transitional interlude based on the introduction forms a bridge to the full orchestra  playing the theme set in the style of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Another  transitional episode ensues followed by a quartet of two clarinets and two bassoons  that play the theme accompanied by an obbligato filigree of violins. Two  triumphant variations characterized by canonic imitation in the upper and lower  strings are set apart by a contrastingly pastoral rendition of the tune in the  woodwinds. In the coda, the melodic line is gently lifted upward by harmonic  degrees higher and higher as the Anthem, like the conclusion to a prayer, ascends  to the celestial realms.

The third movement entitled “Games” is a scherzo cast in a double- binary form  that resembles the traditional minuet and trio structural arrangement commonly  associated with symphonic third movements. The first theme is characterized by a  syncopated melody that begins inauspiciously at first at a soft dynamic level,  harmonized by a progression that ascends in stepwise motion, never actually  pausing for a cadence but continues relentlessly as the listeners’ sense of tonality is  temporarily suspended, allowing a seemingly infinite expansion of harmonic  possibilities. This opening theme leads on and upwards until it is counter-balanced  in the second strain by an alternating rhythmic figure that represents a dramatic  conflict between the various instrumental groups, this conflict comprising the  motivation for the second theme. These two introductory parts of the scherzo  section are repeated, followed by a secondary set of bipartite matching themes. The  first of these is a quasi-developmental phase of the rhythmic idea heard in the first  strain and the second is a reprise of the Motown melody from the first movement,  this time played as a trombone solo echoed by the bassoon and cellos. This reprise  adds an equilibrium of cyclical balance that unifies the entire work as an integrated  whole. The opening section of the scherzo concludes with a closing theme that  rounds out the passage, leading both back to the beginning and forward to the  ensuing trio section. 

The fourth movement of the symphony is intended to embody a musically patriotic  sense of national unity in the face of adversity. Entitled “A Call to Arms,” the  movement is cast in an extended sonata form that begins with a martial rhythmic  motive in the woodwinds that acts as an alarm, awakening a fanfare of trumpets  sounding a call to action answered by an onslaught of sixteenth notes in the strings  that further ignite a sense of impending conflict. This opening fanfare leads  directly to a contrastingly quiet episode that seems to pose a question as it comes to  rest. The exposition concludes with a bi-partite codetta that is first reminiscent of a  Sousa march complete with piccolo obbligato, culminating in a great orchestral  crescendo based on the opening theme of the first movement.


James Domine - Symphony #3 in E minor (Made in America) 194 pages I. Radio Waves II. Anthem III. Games IV. Finale: A Call to Arms The Symphony #3 in E minor by James Domine is a judiciously analytical compendium of performance practices ass
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