composer & pianist


Symphony #1

I wrote my Symphony #1 between December 1996 and September 1997. The first movement, “Underground,” emerges rapidly out of silence into a humming, buzzing, clanking, nerve-jangling, terrifying tower of rhythm and sound, revealing a subway hurtling by. A closer look reveals, in stop-motion, the individual people inside this speeding object – each immersed in their own silent universes of melancholy and meditation. The glimpse is too brief – the subway speeds up, and with rage and terror hurtles back away into darkness and silence.

The second movement, “At Night,” moves up out of the earth into a single bedroom, perhaps in one of those huge towers that carpet Manhattan and the Bronx. The only sound is the relentless, unchanging ticking of a clock; a soft layer of brass chords at last brings on deep sleep. A solo clarinet, calling into the night for an answer, brings on a duet, then a trio, then a blind and obsessive quartet – the brass chords return, unbearable this time – then suddenly awake, in a cold sweat, with just the ticking of the clock …

The final movement, “La Aurora,” brings calm at last: a sigh of low strings releases a breath of mysterious wakefulness. This is the music of the “pre-dawn”, the halfway time when the darkest part of night is gone and morning has not yet arrived. The obsessive music of the second movement has stopped; here is music of relief, of hope, of complex desire, the music of a solitary city dweller gazing out into space from a silent apartment tower…

Then, as the sky turns from black to blue to purple, the quiet city sounds take on their own music: a single car alarm turns into an entire symphony of the approaching dawn, first in the winds and then in the whole orchestra. The night fades away, until only a solo flute is left – and the sun breaks in upon this scene of mystical calm. It makes its blinding appearance from behind a cluster of glass skyscrapers, throwing its hydrogen-white light everywhere, onto swarms of pigeons, onto fire escapes, into dirty puddles. The dawn shatters all peace, beginning another day of mindless numbers and fruitless work; and the city’s people, in what is almost a funeral march for the living, stagger one by one out of their sleepless beds into a sun so blinding that, as if it were darkness, it almost blots everything out.

© 2001 Gordon Beeferman. All rights reserved.