Op. 9 – Chamber Symphony

Flute (Piccolo), Clarinet (Sop. Sax), Bassoon, Percussion (1-2 players), Piano, Violin, Viola, Violoncello and Double Bass

  1. Memorial Day
  2. If You Want My Love
  3. Ah Need Ya
  4. Madhouse Ostinato

The Chamber Symphony, op. 9, by virtue of its title and opus number, carries with it an association with Arnold Schoenberg. I took courage from Schoenberg's example to launch into an audacious and idiosyncratic large-scale work for a large chamber ensemble. Starting with the kind of gestures found in more orthodox varieties of contemporary music, I was prepared to follow its ideas wherever they may lead, even into the popular styles which were drawing my attention. This work features my most flamboyant use of popular musical materials, at least up to this point, and I went so far as to give two of the movements the names they would have carried had they been pop songs with lyrics.

Memorial Day also carries with it associations with Charles Ives, mainly through the title. In fact the work was begun on Memorial Day of 1985 and has a solemnity about it befitting a memorial service. The thematic material generated in this movement becomes transformed in the next movement, If You Want My Love, which follows without a break. The words of the title could be fitted to either of the two principal themes, although they probably fit best to the Burt Bacharach-like second theme.

Ah Need Ya is the scherzo of the symphony, a sassy tune shaded with some dark scoring, including muted strings in the recap. The central episode plays mysteriously with all the transpositions of the 5-29 set containing G#.

Madhouse Ostinato takes its name from an anecdote concerning Beethoven's 7th symphony. The coda of the first movement of that symphony contains an ostinato in the bass, which persists as increasingly agitated figures are added in the other instruments. One listener is supposed to have remarked about this passage Now Beethoven is ripe for the madhouse!. I wanted to take my symphony out in a burst of madness, and built it around an ostinato figure that just won't quit. The basic 3 + 2 + 3 rhythm gives way to extreme rhythmic fragmentation before focusing totally on the ostinato which drives the symphony to its conclusion.