New World Symphony

NWS at the Forefront of Orchestral Innovation

When I lived in Miami for 5 years, one of my favorite destinations was the New World Symphony. I loved watching the youthful and energetic musicians play the heck out of often very interesting and innovative programs.   And of course, Michael Tilson Thomas is a superstar and there was a lot to be learned from watching him (and hearing his remarks on the music).  And, major guests artists abound at NWS, adding a whole new dimension to the orchestra.

NWS has always been at the forefront of orchestral innovation, and so their relatively new "Pulse" series of late night concert events for younger audiences is not that surprising.  They are consistently coming up with interesting and innovative ideas to engage audiences, push boundaries, and offer a really fantastic product for the Miami audiences.

There is no doubt that Miami is very fortunate to have the NWS and all it's leadership in town.  Here is an article from the Miami Herald on the "Pulse" program.

Themes from the Vernacular

This evening, I turned on the CD player and put in a CD full of "American Music." I compiled the CD myself to celebrate the fourth of July last year, and interestingly, there are several pieces by non-american composers that appear on the CD.  Among these are Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 "From the New World."

It's a work we often group into the "Americana" genre, as the nation of cowboys and colonials inspired the great work.  Infused throughout the work are many original themes that Dvorak wrote based on Native American and African American melodies he encountered in the US. The native Bohemian wrote the work in 1892 during his stint as head of the National Conservatory in New York.

The second movement of Dvorak's symphony is particularly well-known for its beautiful melody which was later popularized as a spiritual (Goin' Home).  It's interesting to think that Dvorak was attempting to write themes in the vain of spirituals, and that his original theme was later turned into a spiritual and became widely popular.  He obviously paid attention to what he was hearing around the country.

Many composers have drawn on folk songs and themes from the vernacular in their music.  However, not many have been able to create an original work which was later adopted as part of that vernacular.  It seems backwards, but in fact it shows the care and respect that Dvorak had for this music.  It is entirely possible to believe (if you don't know the history behind the work) that Dvorak's tune was in fact a spiritual that he borrowed - it fits all the criteria.  Although there is some speculation about this possibility, it's highly unlikely that Dvorak's tune existed before his pencil hit the paper.

Here's a video of Dvorak's wonderful second movement from Symphony No. 9 "From the New World."  Enjoy!