The Baldwin County Home Educators arranged a field trip to hear the Mobile Symphony Orchestra do a lesson on Dvorak and his Symphony #9 from his “New World Symphony”.
Dvorak’s works were very influenced by national American music: poetry by Longfellow (“Song of Hiawatha”) and Negro Spirituals. In return, his music has had an influence on our current American music particularly in movie soundtracks. Through each section of the music played I kept thinking of Westerns on the big screen; movies featuring Clint Eastwood, “City Slickers”, TV Westerns like Bonanza. Parts of Symphony #9 were borrowed for each of these and more.
The Mobile Symphony Orchestra show was really enjoyable. There were visuals on a screen behind the orchestra and 3 men, along with the conductor on occasion, narrated the lesson. One man read from “Song of Hiawatha” emphasizing the rhythm of the poem followed by the orchestra playing a section of the work. A fourth person, a woman on stage, sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”; again followed by a section of Dvorak’s work to emphasize the influence it had on his composition.
I checked out the “New World Symphony” on the Internet and followed the site of the Carnegie Symphony Hall. There is a visual attached to each section, which is very repetitive but shows the repetitive nature of the symphony as Dvorak links each section together. It also gives a brief description of each section and what Dvorak may have been or was thinking when he wrote the piece. I recommend you listing to it. Close your eyes for a while and let your mind show you what images the songs evoke: Westerns? Literature? Gospel songs? Here’s the link: http://listeningadventures.carnegiehall.org/nws/splash.html
I think Dvorak was a genius. He not only combined his Czech influence in his works but also, from looking at America at the time and hearing the American sounds, he found something else to incorporate in his music: poetry, spirituals, sounds of the industrial revolution, and the energy of the city. Additionally, there are parallels to Beethoven’s music in Dvorak’s composition, in particular some key movements and chords from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
Dvorak’s music is engraved in my mind. Can’t get it from playing in my head so I’m thankful it’s enjoyable.