(See Birthday Symphony under Music for Orchestra for
the orchestral version.)
Recording from Feb. 18, 2014 concert with Xi Yang, violin; Fred Jacobowitz, clarinet; Bonnie Thron, cello; and Thomas Warburton, piano. This performance was of all four movements, but I have discarded the last movement and replaced it in October 2015; so this video is of the first three movements only.
Chamber Edition Score, PDF Cover Parts
Edition Score, PDF Cover
I. How Long? Not Long
And they're off [8:32] MP3 Finale Score
II. Gate gate paragate parasamgate
Adagio mahayana [7:58] MP3 Finale Score
III. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory
of the Coming
of the Lord
Picco di montagna [7:51] MP3 Finale ScoreIV. August 28 Tempo I, II, III, IV, III [9:16]
In early 2010, I had a peculiar dream of a respectful conversation with Elvis Presley. He said I should write a symphony based on speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. Well—who can refuse the King of Rock and/or Roll? Especially since I share my birthday, January 15, with MLK, and classical radio stations frequently play a composer's music on his birthday.
The speeches of Martin Luther King are copyrighted, and the MLK Center is notoriously litigious. Thus this cannot be a choral work, nor can it have direct references to texts in the score. Instead I use the rhythms and inflections from speeches that are incorporated in themes. The first movement uses a few phrases from the “How long? Not long” speech of March 25, 1965 at the Alabama State Capitol. The second movement is based on the Buddhist mantra “Gate gate, paragate, parasamgate, bhodi swaha”; this can be roughly translated (as by Ram Dass) as “Beyond, beyond the beyond, beyond the beyond the beyond, hail the goer.” The third movement returns to MLK and uses bits of the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech given on April 3, 1968 in Memphis Tennessee. The first version of the fourth movement (started writing it Aug. 28, 2013) used the final section of the Dream Speech given at the March on Washington on August 28, 1968, with narrator. This version can be performed after 2038 when the copyright lapses.
On August 29, 2015, I started writing a second version of the last movement. The beginning uses the rhythm of the words “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” The music then departs from the text, with the motives from “table of brotherhood” and “I have a dream” used repeatedly. Next comes “Let freedom ring” along with other phrases from the speech. The movement closes with “Free at last, free at last (repeated), thank God almighty we are free at last!”The premiere performance of this piece was of the chamber edition for violin, clarinet, cello and piano on February 18, 2014, with the original fourth movement, without narrator. As the fourth movement is now very different, I have removed it from the recordings and the video offered here.
Xi Yang began his distinguished music career when he was a student at the Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China where he studied both violin and viola Performance. He had his first solo debut when he was 9 years old. By the age of 12 he made an average of 200 solo appearances a year in China. He won the National Violin Competition in Shanghai and made his solo debut with the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra. He then, toured China with the Beijing Youth Symphony as a soloist and concertmaster.Arriving in the United States, Mr. Yang won a National Strings Competition in Arkansas and has performed numerous solo recitals, chamber music concerts and gave master classes to young string players from many public schools and colleges. A graduate of Indiana University School of Music, he studied violin performance and chamber music ensemble, from baroque style to modern composers, under the guidance of James Buswell, Nelli Shkolnikova, Josef Gingold and Rostislav Dubinsky. Mr. Yang was the violinist and then Principal Violist for the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, Florida Grand Opera and the Principal Viola with the Symphony of the Americas. He is now the assistant concertmaster and conductor with the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra and Principal Violist with the Carolina Philharmonic. A well established violinist and violist in North Carolina and beyond, he has recently performed solo concerts with some of the major Orchestras in China.