Symphony No. 4

David Maslanka

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Symphony No. 4: The sources that give rise to a piece of music are many and deep. It is possible to describe the technical aspects of a work ? its construction principles, its orchestration -but nearly impossible to write of its soul-nature except through hints and suggestions.

The roots of Symphony No.4 are many. The central driving force is the spontaneous rise of the impulse to shout for the joy of life. I feel it is the powerful voice of the Earth that comes to me from my adopted western Montana, and the high plains and mountains of central Idaho. My personal experience of the voice is one of being helpless and torn open by the power of the thing that wants to be expressed?the welling-up shout that cannot be denied. I am set aquiver and am forced to shout and sing. The response in the voice of the Earth is the answering shout of thanksgiving, and the shout of praise.

Out of this, the hymn tune ?Old Hundred,? several? other hymn tunes (the Bach chorales ?Only Trust in God to Guide You? and ?Christ Who Makes Us Holy?), and original melodies which are hymn-like in nature, form the backbone of Symphony No.4.

To explain the presence of these hymns, at least in part, and to hint at the life of the Symphony, I must say something about my long-time fascination with Abraham Lincoln. Carl Sandburg?s monumental Abraham Lincoln offers a picture of Lincoln in death. Lincoln?s close friend, David R. Locke, saw him in his coffin. According to Locke, his face had an expression of absolute content, of relief at having thrown off an unimaginable burden. The same expression had crossed Lincoln? s face only a few times in life; when after a great calamity, he had come to a great victory. Sandburg goes on to describe a scene from Lincoln?s journey to final rest at Springfield, Illinois. On Apri128, 1865, the coffin lay on a mound of green moss and white flowers in the rotunda of the capitol building in Columbus, Ohio. Thousands of people passed by each hour to view the body. At four in the afternoon, in the red-gold of a prairie sunset, accompanied by the boom of minute guns and a brass band playing ?Old Hundred,? the coffin was removed to the waiting funeral train.

For me, Lincoln?s life and death are as critical today as they were more than a century ago. He remains a model for this age. Lincoln maintained in his person the tremendous struggle of opposites raging in the country in his time. He was inwardly open to the boiling chaos, out of which he forged the framework of a new unifying idea. It wore him down and killed him, as it wore and killed the hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the Civil War, as it has continued to wear and kill by the millions up to the present day. Confirmed in the world by Lincoln was the unshakable idea of the unity of all the human race, and by extension the unity of all life, and by further extension, the unity of all life with all matter, with all energy, and with the silent and seemingly empty and unfathomable mystery of our origins.

Out of chaos and the fierce joining of opposite comes new life and hope. From this impulse I used ?Old Hundred,? known as the Doxology?a hymn of praise to God; Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow, Gloria in excelsis Deo ? the mid-sixteenth century setting of Psalm 100. Psalm 100 reads in part:
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord
with gladness; come before His presence with singing? Enter into
His gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise: be
thankful unto Him, and bless His name.

I have used Christian symbols because they are my cultural heritage, but I have tried to move through them to a depth of universal humanness, to an awareness that is not defined by religious label. My impulse through this music is to speak to the fundamental human issues of transformation and re-birth in this chaotic time.

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Scores & Parts

Symphony No.4 - Full Score - Study

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by a consortium headed by he University of Texas at Austin Symphonic Wind Ensemble.
Composition Date 1993
Duration 00:27:00
Orchestration picc., fl.(3) (3rd dbls. a. fl.), ob.(3), Eb cl., cl.(3), b.cl., cb.cl., bsn.(2), cbsn., a.sax.(2), t.sax., b.sax.; hn.(4), tpt.(3), tbn.(3), b. tbn., bar.hn.(2), tba.(2); cb., timp., perc.(4), hp., pno., org.
Premiere February 1994. Performed by the University of Texas at Austin Symphonic Wind Ensemble, conducted by Jerry Junkin. At Texas Music Educators Association convention, San Antonio, TX

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