Reflections: Songs of Fathers and Daughters

Tone Poem/Suite for Orchestra

Samuel Jones

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Publisher: Campanile Music Press
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

This work was composed in response to a commission from the Seattle Symphony through the generosity of a group of donors led by Charles and Benita Staadecker. The donors (who include Jerald Farley, David E. Gannett, Robert and Gail Stagman, Michael and Leslie Whalen, in addition to the Staadeckers) specifically requested a work which would commemorate and celebrate the special relationship between fathers and daughters (and, in the case of one of the donors, granddaughters). This commission would be a delight to fulfill. All I had to do was to describe the joy I feel as the father of my own two beautiful daughters.

Well?maybe not all I had to do. It actually proved to be quite a challenge to find a way to capture such a panoply of experiences and feelings and weave them into a coherent musical narrative. The solution I found was to give the work a combination of formal characteristics. In some respects it is a tone poem, but it is also a suite, with the separate sections laced together to form a single entity.

Of course all good program music (music that tells a story) can also be fully appreciated and experienced as abstract music; it shouldn?t lean too heavily upon its story. Such is the case with, for example, Strauss? great tone poems, and I have endeavored to do the same with Reflections, although this new piece is more intimate and smaller-dimensioned than those orchestral landmarks. If one knows, however, that this is a large tripartite form, A-B-A, with the B section being comprised of a series of interconnected songs forming a central suite within the work, this knowledge together with one?s own perception of the various motives and thematic connections will allow the music to speak for itself on its own terms. You need continue no further, and you will have what you need to understand the piece.

If, however, you want to be aware of some of the programmatic thinking I have employed, then you are invited to read on?

The work opens with an introductory passage marked by a rippling effect, describing the motion of a drop of water falling into a reflective pool. This image of reflections quickly became a central idea for the piece, as it seemed to symbolize both the reflective memories of the father and the daughter as well as the way a daughter?s facial features and personal traits so often reflect the influence of the father.

After this introduction the work moves into the main opening section, an extended song which portrays the relationship of a young father and mother establishing their life together. Then comes the searing intensity of the appearance of new life, followed immediately by the transcendent joy brought by the birth of a daughter.

This opening chapter in the tone poem then gives way to a series of five movements, forming a central suite, much in the character of Bizet?s Jeux d?enfants or Debussy?s Children?s Corner, but with its movements connected by transitional passages, each new movement being heralded by a sweeping harp glissando. These five songs (some of which are actual songs I wrote for my daughters when they were little girls) portray the daughter at advancing chronological stages. The first, a lilting miniature gigue, conjures images of a skipping, happy little girl at play. The second, a graceful waltz, shows the little girl becoming a young lady, dancing with her father with her gigue theme balanced on his toes. The third, a canon, exemplifies the myriad of ways the father teaches the young girl and encourages her to become a leader in her own right. In the fourth, the daughter goes off to school and various campus song references show her becoming a strong and independent young woman. In the fifth song a young man, portrayed by the double basses, suddenly enters her life, and she finds herself deeply in love. This song features the entire bass section in one of the most extended cantabile bass section passages in the orchestral literature.

Throughout the piece one might have sensed that the father has been symbolized by the cello section. This has been deliberate, and, although not routinely followed, other members of the string family often can be heard to characterize the mother (violas) and daughter (violins). The rest of this middle section is quite programmatic, but rather than telling you what to listen for, I prefer to let you hear and respond to your own sense of what the music might be describing.

At the very end of this section the ripples of the reflective pool return, this time moving farther and farther apart as the daughter leaves to make her new life. And, simultaneously, the father and mother return to their home, empty now of the daughter?s presence but full of their memories and of their constantly deepening affection for one another. The piece closes with the love music with which it began, and with reflections of life with their little girl flitting across their minds? eye.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz, Music Director Made possible by a generous gift from a group of donors led by Charles Staadecker in honor of their daughters and granddaughters, and all daughters everywhere
Composition Date 2011
Duration 00:18:00
Orchestration 3(3 dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(3 dbl. B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Hp. Str.
Premiere June 2, 2011 - Seattle, Washington The Seattle Symphony Gerard Schwarz, conductor

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