Through the music of Joan Tower, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and George Gershwin, the Augustana Symphony Orchestra explores what it might mean for music, composers, and cultures to be made in — and by— America.
JOAN TOWER Made in America
SAMUEL COLERIDGE-TAYLOR Symphonic Variations on an African Air
GEORGE GERSHWIN Symphonic Picture from Porgy and Bess
Inspired by Joan Tower's symphonic poem, the Augustana Symphony Orchestra explores what it might mean for music, composers, and cultures to be made in - and by - America. Tower's contemporary musical language is often placed in conversation with the "American" sound of Aaron Copland's ballet scores from the 1940s, and her Made in America (2004) - structured around the tune "American the Beautiful" - offers a modern take on her relationship to the American experience after living abroad as a child.
English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Symphonic Variations on an African Air (1905) responds to American musical themes from a different, singular perspective. Although Coleridge-Taylor studied at the Royal College of Music in London alongside Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst, he also visited the United States repeatedly in the early years of the twentieth century, during which he developed meaningful relationships with African American writers and activists such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and W.E.B. DuBois. With these connections in mind, Coleridge-Taylor's Symphonic Variations on an African Air explores the spiritual tune "I'm Troubled in Mind."
Coming 30 years later, Porgy and Bess (1935) also incorporates the style of spirituals - blended with gospel, Broadway show tunes, and "classical music" - into an opera that aimed to create performance opportunities for actors and actresses of color with whom the Gershwin brothers and DuBose Heyward worked in the New York theatre scene. Robert Russell Bennett's Symphonic Picture weaves together some of the most notable melodies from this depiction of life in 1930s Charleston, South Carolina into a work for the concert hall stage.
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