SYMPHONY NO. 1 — Some Program Notes

April 3, 2019

Symphony No. 1 will be read by the ISU Wind Symphony on Friday, May 3rd at 12pm in the CPA! We will be working to make a recording of the piece, so there's no guarantee of a full run. Feel free to come and observe!

 

I've been hard at work putting the finishing touches on my thesis piece, Symphony No. 1: For a Handsome Kid. Today, I had the chance to share it with the ISU composition studio and talk about more of the specifics of the piece, so now I'm sharing it with the world wide web!

 

First off, the title of the piece is directly inspired by my grandpa's own sense of humor. He went by H. K., and was asked many times over the years just what H. K. stood for. OF course, his answer was always "Handsome Kid" (and it was true, wouldn't you know it!).

 

In order to capture my grandpa's personality, I used three major themes in his life as focal points to generate thematic material for the piece. Each theme is explored in one of three major movements, labelled below with Roman numerals. To connect everything together, I included two Interludes that are autobiographical; they depict my own memories and feelings regarding H. K.'s life in a more literal sense. Finally, an Introduction and an Epilogue bookend the piece and connect all three major themes together. The full movements are listed here:

 

Introduction: Memorial

I. Gemini 8 & 9A

Interlude: Bygones

II. Quiet Inspiration

Interlude: Funeral

III. To Serenity

Epilogue: Legacy

 

I'll be going much further in depth in the official program notes attached to my final thesis, but here is a short description of each movement:

 

Introduction: Memorial sets the soundscape for the piece. Each of the major themes are introduced here, albeit rather subtly.

 

I. Gemini 8 & 9A recalls H. K.'s passion for spaceflight, especially after working on the electronics for these two Gemini spacecraft while working at Honeywell. H. K. enjoyed many science fiction worlds, especially Star Trek, and the theme for this movement evokes a Trek-like ambiance reminiscent of spaceships effortlessly and majestically gliding through the stars.

 

Interlude: Bygones is a representation of my own past ignorance. I didn't enjoy the kind of music my grandpa did until after he had died, so we never had the chance to enjoy that shared interest in our relationship. In this movement, the piano plays on, oblivious to the rest of the music happening onstage, until it's too late. Pictured: some of the many classical records H. K. owned that I now listen to.

 

II. Quiet Inspiration centers on H. K.'s faithfulness and repose. He attended the same church in Freeport for decades, and one of his favorite hymns was "Holy, Holy, Holy"—now used as the theme of this movement. He also used to sing the tune with a pun in mind: "Holy, holy, holy! Swiss cheese is holey!"

 

Interlude: Funeral describes my emotional state during H. K.'s ceremony. Amidst my turbulent feelings, you can hear "Taps" being played by my brother on our grandpa's euphonium.

 

III. To Serenity transforms the minor seventh motive from Scheherazade into a promise of peace, hope, and healing for my grandma and our family.

 

Epilogue: Legacy begins with an offstage euphonium cadenza which combines all three main themes into a cohesive whole. The full ensemble takes over and joyfully moves onward to the future.

 

It was great to share my art with the composition studio today, and I'm excited to keep sharing it with the world. Stay tuned for more updates!

 

BJH

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