Clay

This morning, the Independence Day holiday in the United States, was quiet, serene, and full of life. As I walked through the garden soon after dawn, there was no noise from traffic, no conversations trailing from the homes of neighbors. Angel and I moved through the flowers, listening to bird song and witnessing the flight of butterflies and bees. Such an oasis of quiet in an otherwise noisy holiday punctuated by fireworks and noisemakers. I noted the rich beautiful blossoms of daylily (hemerocallis) ‘American Revolution’ – striking in its dark color and defined form still dotted with  morning dew.

AmericanRevolution

Daylily ‘Tiger Eye Spider’ looked like a silent explosion of color, a floral fireworks fitting to the day.

tigereyespider

In a few weeks, we will submit the final mixes of my CD Watershed for duplication, with a scheduled fall release. While listening to Bill editing the music today, it felt right to share a preview of the third movement of one of the pieces on the CD, Sketches of America. In a time of tumult in our country, I am reminded of the main theme of this piece, the melody of “America the Beautiful” and how I love the beauty of this country and its highest ideals.

Sketches of America was inspired by my travels through the American landscape as well as an exploration of uniquely American musical forms, specifically minimalism and the blues. The orchestral piece has three main sections and features solo trumpet and trombone in various ways.  The final section is a chorale adapted from a solo song that I wrote entitled Clay. Struggling to create a new garden on solid clay soil, I responded by writing an ode to clay, exploring its dual nature and potential symbolism for life.

Clay, so full of life to be released
through fork and spade and shredded leaf,
the solid ground beneath our feet,
Clay.

Trumpeter Sean Jones and trombonist Ed Kocher soar in a beautiful and poignant manner in this section. The hymn like song Clay seemed a fitting end for “Sketches of America,” the solid ground beneath our feet and a reminder of the melody of America the Beautiful. I dedicated this piece to my father, whose birthday was on the 4th of July. Enjoy.

Special thanks to Bill Purse, sound engineer and producer extraordinaire, and Jim Cunningham of WQED-FM for sharing the live concert recording of Sketches of America as broadcast on WQED-FM.

All music, text, and images ©2019 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

Arcadian Tone Poems

Arcadia – a region of ancient Greece that is “a poetic byword for an idyllic vision of unspoiled wilderness.” ~Wikipedia

James Houlik

James Houlik

Two weeks ago, Arcadian Tone Poems, a piece for tenor saxophone and orchestra was premiered. It is always an exciting event, to attend the public “unveiling” of something created in the privacy of my studio. A composition never seems complete until it is performed, and what a performance! Our marvelous Duquesne University Symphony Orchestra played with verve and skill under the direction of Jeffrey Turner and, as you will hear, James Houlik’s performance on saxophone is that of a master.

I was asked by the director to create something fun and accessible, with lots of variety in mood and tone color and to showcase the artistry of James, an extraordinary master of the classical tenor saxophone. Immediately the idea of writing a suite of tone poems came to mind, the perfect medium in which to explore the tonal colors of the saxophone and orchestra.

Evening in Arcadia by Thomas Cole

Evening in Arcadia by Thomas Cole

Tone poems, or symphonic poems, arose as a musical form in the 19th century Romantic era of music, and are “intended to inspire listeners to imagine or consider scenes, images, specific ideas or moods.” When searching for a way to feature the classical saxophone in an imaginary landscape, the idea of a pipe or horn being played in the wilderness suggested the role of the shepherd moving through the landscape and describing its beauty through music. “Arcadia is associated with bountiful natural splendor, harmony, and is often inhabited by shepherds” and so the idea for a suite of four tone poems was born.

The program notes from the premiere:

Written to showcase the saxophone artistry of virtuoso James Houlik, “Arcadian Tone Poems” is a series of aural impressions of the mythic land of Arcadia. Ancient Greeks envisioned a pastoral paradise of hills and valleys, mountains, streams, and forests, populated by the ancient gods. Imagine a contest of aerial acrobatics between birds over a meadow strewn with flowers, or a broad flowing river rushing through the mountains, carrying water sprites on the foam. Perhaps Pan, the ruler of Arcadia, is playing a haunting melody deep in a cathedral forest punctuated by columns of light, or Zeus and his sons amuse themselves with a dramatic game of throwing thunderbolts across the hills. Each movement is meant to be an imaginary stroll through a different aspect of this ancient paradise.

Here’s a montage of selections from each movement of Arcadian Tone Poems 

Here is an audio file of the complete third movement, “Shadow and Light”  (©2013 Lynn Emberg Purse)  

A special thanks to my husband, Bill Purse, for his formidable skills as audio engineer and producer in the process of mixing and mastering the concert recording.

Read more about the creation of Arcadian Tone Poems in Playing With Thunder.

The Grand Pause and Reprise

“The grand pause . . . a brief, silent pause, during which time is not counted.” (courtesy of Music Terms at artoplum.com)

image of Grand Pause symbolIn music, this symbol, a fermata over a rest, indicates the “grand pause” – a break in the forward motion of music. The beginning of this semester has created an unexpected backlog of work, so I am inserting a “grand pause” in my blog for a brief pause. Once I have “caught my breath” in that quiet time, I will return with some new music and images to share.

In the hiatus, I offer links to a few favorite posts from when I first began this blog, a reprise of past reflections on music and gardening.

Autumn Minimalism: the Constancy of Change has a video of life and movement in my garden set to orchestral music that I composed a few years ago (Sketches of America).

Anatomy of a Thunderstorm is a first person experience of recording the sound of a thunderstorm.  This is close to my heart, as I continue working on a piece, August in Penn’s Woods, in which recordings of the sounds of nature lie at the core of the music.  An edited soundtrack of the thunderstorm recorded that day is included in this post, a recording that will become part of the new piece in progress. May rain come to all who need it.

Reprise ~ in music . . . the repetition or reiteration of the opening material later in a composition (Wikipedia)

Garden 11/11/11

This year, the garden seems to go on and on.  Here is a little tour of flowers, fruit and foliage filling the garden on November 11.  Even as the leaves fall, next year’s growth appears.

More next time, after this week’s big concert.

Text and media of “Garden 11/11/11” ©2011 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved