Archive for April, 2003

Symphony No. 2 “Mozart ist Tot!”

Monday, April 21st, 2003

       In 2003, I wrote a symphony, Symphony No. 2 “Mozart ist Tot!” Mozart is one of the most recognized and performed composers in America. In fact, most American symphonies mainly play European composers from the 19th and 18th century. They very rarely play music by an American composer and if they do play one, it not a new composition. It would be like if the commercial pop radio stations only played rock music from the 50’s and early 60’s and on top of that music is only by European artist (no Elvis). I feel Mozart is over played by symphony orchestras. I personally do not wish to hear his music at any symphony concert again, unless the piece is altered in a way to make it new and interesting. Symphony No. 2 “Mozart ist Tot!” is my attempt to make Mozart interesting and modern. Though this is a step backward for my musical objectives; because it uses no improvisation and like my first symphony uses other composers’ music or styles, I had some events that made me decided to write this symphony.
       The first of these events was in December 2002 and I was looking to entering a composition contest. The rules of the contest made me mad because they were so restrictive. Symphonies and composition contest like to limit the creativity of composers with rules like no longer then 15 minutes and no new notation. They basically do not want to put in the effort to learn a new piece of music. While this was not really news to me, it just upset me that this kind of limiting creativity still is going on.
       The next event happen in Atlanta later the same month, I was listening to the radio and a NPR dj was complaining about new music. He said that composers should not write music that was so irritating, and write something that sounds more familiar. Of course if he ever read Meyer’s “The Meaning and Emotion in Music” he would realize that his view of sound is a conditioned response and if he took the time to listen to more new music the dissonance and sounds would not seem irritating. Again I got mad because this dj with nation radio coverage was poisoning listeners against new music.
       The last event also occurred in Atlanta, the Atlanta symphony was advertising that they where play a new composition they commissioned, the first new piece in eight years. Eight years, a professional orchestra with money recourses of the Atlanta symphony should be commissioning several pieces a year not one every eight years. In Mozart’s time if an orchestra only played one new piece every eight years the listeners would not have showed up. They only wanted to hear the newest compositions, not the oldest.
       One night while I could not sleep in Atlanta, I was thinking about the above events and the first SFCCO concert. Mark Alburger told a story about how his Symphony No. 1 (“It wasn’t classical…”) got its’ theme. The story he told was about how people leaving a concert complained that the new music piece was not classical; it was symphonic but not classical. I guess for those concert goers composers must not try and expand or develop music forms. But without growth music is a dead art form and would only be museum music. Then the idea hit me to use a Mozart symphony and make it modern and interesting.
       So when I got back home in January of 2003, I took Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 “Haffner” and replaced the notes with my own. Thus only using his rhythms and form, which is ironically how Mozart worked, he wrote that the first movement of “Haffner” symphony was “monothematic, ‘worked out’ after Hayden’s model.” I picked the “Haffner” symphony because of its length (without repeats it only last15 minutes which is the longest most orchestra will allow for new pieces) and that it was written about the time America won the Revolutionary war, 1783. Each movement uses a different compositional style. The first movement, Twelve Steps of Mozart, uses a twelve tone row that I improvised in a recording I made in September of 2001 called Jagged. (Released on StatementsBlack Hat Records) The second movement, Minimally Mozart, uses minimalism and each section is reduced to a three-note pattern. The third movement, Caging Mozart, uses chance (I used dice to pick the notes) and is an obvious homage to great American composer John Cage. The 4th movement, Giant Steps of Mozart, I used the great saxophonist John Coltrane’s solo on Giant Steps as a replacement row for some sections and it’s chord progression for other sections.
       I hope you will enjoy my latest symphony, and that you will join me in a protest against American symphonies. I am calling for a Mozart boycott in order to get more American and new music composers programmed by professional orchestras. I hope that people will stop going to professional orchestra concerts where Mozart is programmed (except groups that perform on period instruments and are solely dedicated to playing Mozart’s music), maybe this will help to motivate symphony orchestras to play more new music. I hoping to get professional orchestras to stop performing Mozart for 5 years and program American and new music composers in his place. The SFCCO premiered “Mozart ist Tot!” (Program Notes) on April 5, 2003.