OVERTURE TO THE AMERICAN SONGBOOK

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VIEW SCORE: OVERTURE TO THE AMERICAN SONGBOOK (SCORE–PDF)

INSTRUMENTATION: Cl in A, Bsn, Tpt in C, Hn, Pno, Vln, Vla, Vcl

PROGRAM NOTE:  The idea for this piece originated with Chad Burrow, clarinet professor at Univ. of Michigan and co-Artistic Director of the wonderful BrightMusic Chamber Ensemble, asking me to do an arrangement/medley of American folk songs.

This presented two problems: 1) I hate medleys.  By their very nature, they seem to commit the cardinal sin of composition–stringing ideas together rather than creating an actual “piece of music.”  2) What constitutes “American” song anyway?  So much American folk music is borrowed from England, France, or Germany and simply alters the lyrics.

So, I put on my “musicologist” hat–a hat I didn’t honestly even know I had and I had to break it in–to figure out what was authentically American in origin, and resolved only to use those songs.  (The one exception is the closing phrase, an exception I made for obvious reasons!)  And secondly, I decided that the genre of pastiche that works much better than medley is a musical theater Overture, in which the songs are often woven together rather than just presented in sequence.

The result then, is this Overture, in which these key songs of American origin are woven together, and the “show” that would follow is simply the last 250 years of our national music.

–KM

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