Commissioned: the Atlantic Coast Conference Band Directors Association
Premiere: Florida Atlantic University, Dr. Kyle Prescott, conductor.
Duration: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Grade 4-4.5
URBAN IMPRESSIONS is a piece in a similar vein to that of Darius Milhaud’s Suite Française, in that it is a musical travelogue, with each of its five movements representing a different locale. It is not meant to convey an elaborate, programmatic representation of each city, but instead, a brief impression conjured only after a short stay. Much of these reactions are fueled by the immediate visual impact of architecture, landscape, and infrastructure encountered while traveling within the respective cities. It will be the role of a large onstage ensemble to illustrate these more concrete ideas, while a separate offstage ensemble produces music representative of the more intangible elements of each city’s character.
I. WINDY CITY FANFARE – The music of the onstage ensemble is centered on the sounds and rhythms of Chicago’s “L” system. Percussion begin the piece with the asymmetric repetition of the trains, as well as the musical chimes signaling the doors opening and closing. This rhythmic drive carries with it moments of large, cool, chordal music, impressing the vast, and ever-expanding Chicago skyline. Like the city, this music is bookended by the Willis (Sears) Tower and the Hancock Center, with a distinct sonority representing each. The offstage ensemble joins in moments of cool Chicago blues. 3:30
II. MOTOWN UNDERGROUND – This movement is a combination of slow, haunting, atmospheric music onstage, representing the intriguing, abandoned nature of much of Detroit’s architecture, while the offstage ensemble produces very light, quick, almost Bohemian-sounding jazz. This offstage music is meant to represent, not only a ghostly, almost European echo of the city’s past, but also the artistic underworld qualities at the heart of its resurgence. 3:30
III. TRAFFIC JAMS AND BROKEN DREAMS (LOS ANGELES) – Here, the brighter colors of the onstage ensemble illustrate the beautiful weather and views of southern California, while other instruments play interesting games with rhythm and tempo, mimicking the sprawling, yet congested highway system at the heart of Los Angeles. Offstage soloists will perform somber, lullaby-like music, which highlights the unmistakable aura of struggle, broken dreams, and lost fame that floats above the façade of the glamorous town. 2:20
IV. HYMN FOR BOSTON – This movement proceeds with slow, reedy, dark, hymn-like music, painting the antique nature of much of Boston’s centuries-old architecture. An offstage trumpet plays a quasi-patriotic melody, layered with an old Boston tune, hinting at the historic reverence encountered while visiting the city. 3:00
V. MANHATTAN MAMBO – The finale balances the opening movement’s music with towering “skyline” music of its own. It is driven by scurrying dance rhythms representing the hustle of millions of people commuting through the city each day. The offstage ensemble will interrupt with jazz breaks, circa the 1950’s. Most of the material in this movement is derived from two of New York’s towering musical icons: George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. 2:15