We are a rhythm nation and our orchestral music should reflect this. As a pianist, I have been playing jazz and Latin music for most of my life. I play African drums on the weekends in Central Park. My life is one giant rhythm as I move from place to place. Many people ask me, "Why do you use jazz in your orchestral music?" The real question is, "Why shouldn't any American composer use jazz in their music?" After all, we are a jazz nation. Jazz is our indigenous art form.
In this music, I use all the sounds I hear emanating from the streets of New York. I use jazz, Latin, world, hip hop, rock and popular songs in these concertos. You will hear I pay homage to Stravinsky, Bartók and other traditional classical composers as well. New York encompasses virtually every culture, and is the consummate melting pot of contemporary urban civilizations. I simply respond to its diversity.
This is urban music; it reflects the sounds of my city. I write about what I know, see and hear - the Upper West Side, Central Park on a summer weekend and Greenwich Village on a loud Friday night. Perhaps one can say my style is neo-impressionist. But I do not live on some quaint idyllic country farm, I live in the city that never sleeps! It is a hard-driving concrete jungle that pulsates around the clock.
So instead of just letting the percussion section play the rhythms as an accompaniment to the orchestra, I like to transform the orchestra into a great big rhythm machine to create these rhythmic effects. The orchestra itself becomes an extended percussion ensemble. There are always spaces in the orchestrations for the funk, jazz and Latin lines to sound through. It is a sort of urban pointillism - many note vectors coming at you at different times fitting together like a puzzle. The harmonic language fluctuates between tonality and atonality I like to use tight clusters to create a wide tonal points. Think of this as a wide brush stroke as compared to a thin stroke. So in essence I use atonal clusters to re-create new tonality that has a semi diatonic feel to it.
The key to performing this music is that the orchestra sections must be in lock step with each other so that the rhythmic texture will be palpable. The music is like a finely tuned sports car that turns on a dime; it needs the orchestra players to synchronize precisely with each other. Rhythm is the key.
Urban Music is the sounds of New York - jazz, Latin and world rhythms that collide with most other contemporary orchestral sounds.
We are a rhythm nation!!!
Copyright 2012 © David Chesky
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