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The Music

Symphony No. 2, "The Big Apple"
(A New York Symphony)
 
I. Skyline
Times Square Cadenza - Interlude
II. Gotham
 

by Johan de Meij

Published by Amstel Music
PO Box 94283, 1090 GG Amsterdam
The Netherlands
FAX 31/20-69.22.027
Distributed by Hal Leonard Corporation

The Big Apple was commissioned by the United States Air Force Band in Washington D.C., Lieutenant Colonel Alan L. Bonner, conductor. It was composed between October 1991 and September 1993 and was premiered in March 1994 at the American Bandmasters Association Convention. It is dedicated to the composer's parents.

The composer writes about his piece:

My Second Symphony is an ode to New York: not strictly programmatic music, but rather a musical interpretation of the spirit, glamour, and indifference of one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

The first movement, Skyline, depicts the massive facade, the 'global' contours of New York. It opens with a powerful and startling introduction (189K AIFF). In the second movement, Gotham, the brutal, chaotic aspects of the metropolis are introduced.

Listening to this symphony is perhaps as enervating as an actual visit to Manhattan. The listener is scarcely granted a moment of calm: even the more subdued passages are invariably accompanied by an obstinate rumbling in the background - the music never really quiets down...

"Time Square Cadenza":  My initial plan of writing a three movement symphony with a slow middle movement was soon abandoned since this was not in keeping with the frenetic energy, turmoil and the accelerated pulse beat that I always feel during my visits to the Big Apple. To preserve the tension between the two movements, the idea emerged of a non-musical intermezzo: "Times Square Cadenza", a compilation of city sounds I personally recorded, which links the two movements of the symphony together into a single uninterrupted whole.

The musical language running through the entire work is robust, angular, and straightforward, unencumbered by depth or philosophical reflection. The symmetry of the New York street map together with the massive architecture of the skyscrapers provided the structure of the thematic material. For me, composing this work was both an exploration of various musical styles as well as a tribute to Aaron Copland, John Adams, and Leonard Bernstein.

The syncopated, restless interval structure of the first theme in the horns, known as the Skyline Motif, (200K AIFF) follows the contours of the impressive silhouette of the Big Apple. from this motif  all other themes are distilled. The whole is surrounded by repeated accompanying figures in the woodwinds, piano, harp, and mallets: a jumble of lights and the on-and-off flicker of neon signs.

The recurrent use of these repeated sound patterns bares a certain resemblance to minimal music, and there are also rhythmic influences of such musical styles as jazz and ragtime. The addition of a harpsichord is not the most obvious alternative in this context, but it is precisely the rigid, hammering nervous system of this instrument that fits so well into the orchestration.

Johan de Meij stands in Times Square to record incidental sounds for the Times Square Cadenza.

The Composer

Born in Voorburg, Holland in 1953, Johan de Meij received his musical education at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague where he studied band conducting and trombone. After graduation, de Meij gained an international reputation as an arranger of classical as well as popular repertoire.

As a relative newcomer to the band composing field, his arrangements and original compositions are performed by professional musicians and student instrumentalists all around the world.

He has earned several honors for his compositions. They include the Sudler International Wind Band Composition Competition (1989), and finalist in the 14th International Composition Competition in Corciano, Italy (1993).

Johan de Meij is a versatile musician. In addition to his composing and arranging talents, he is an accomplished trombone and euphonium player. He has performed with the Amsterdam Wind Orchestra, the Orkest De Volharding, the Amsterdam Trombone Quartet, and the Dutch Brass Sextet.

He has accpted invitations to guast conduct his works. de Meij has performed his compositions in The United States, Japan, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

 

Other Works By This Composer

Symphony No. 1, "The Lord of the Rings" Original Band Sudler Award winner.
Loch Ness (A Scottish Fantasy) Original Band  
Pentagram Original Band For "fanfare band".
Aquarium Original Band  
Jazz Suite No. 2 D. Shostakovich Arranged for band.
Funeral Music (from the Melodrama Bergliot) E. Grieg Arranged for band.
Aladdin Suite C. Nielsen Arranged for band.
Jupiter Hymn G. Holst Arranged for band.
Jig (from St. Paul's Suite) G. Holst Arranged for band.
To My Country (from Symphony No. 3) B. Zweers Arranged for band.
Polish Christmas Music (Part 1) Polish Carols Arranged for band.
Trois Rag-Caprices D. Milhaud Arranged for band.
Ratatouille Satirique E. Satie Arranged for band.
Romeo and Juliet S. Prokofiev Arranged for band.
American Suite A. Dvorak Arranged for band.
Pavane pour une Infante defunte M. Ravel Arranged for band.
Les Papillons Lankester Arranged for band.
The Exodus Song Gold Arranged for band.
The Phantom of the Opera/Songs from "Cats" A. Lloyd Webber Arranged for band.

 

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