Chart — Overture for Orchestra

First Prize, 1998 Louisville Orchestra Competition for New Orchestral Music

Instrumentation
  • 2222 | 4331 | 3perc | strings
Duration
c. 7'30
Listen to a recording
Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sebrina Alfonso, condcutor
Reviews | Comments

... [places Grant] in the developing mainstream of classical composers who are beginning to win serious audiences back... brings out the heavy artillery in the percussion to compete with, and to kid around with, modern jazz and rock idioms... a jazzy, noisy piece that pays homage to the improvisational irreverence of the classic American idiom... competes with American popular music on its own deafening decibel level without the aid of amplification or studio tricks...

T. L. Ponick
The Fairfax Connection

... a very appealing new work... the elements of swing and jazz that dominate the texture do not mask the underlying structure and complexity... audience reaction was enthusiastic...

Ed Roberts
The Washington Post

... boisterous, explosive... [couched in] an underlying jazz idiom with sections of exquisite lyricism... its highly-charged rhythms keep audiences on the edge of their seats, resulting in enthusiastic ovations...

William Hudson, Music Director
Fairfax Symphony Orchestra

Commissioned by
  • Fairfax Symphony Orchestra | William Hudson, Music Director
Year of composition
1993
Program note

Chart obliquely borrows some of its structural, harmonic and rhythmic materials from the world of jazz and rock — hence its title, which alludes to the label given by pop musicians to their music scores and arrangements of tunes. 

Structurally, Chart at times employs the respectable practice of “trading 4s (or 2s),” where a musician is given the opportunity to solo for four (or two) measures before “passing it over” to another player.  Trading 4s is the cooperative way for musicians to get in their licks and say what they have to say before the piece ends.   Harmonically, Chart on several occasions does offer harmonic progressions — or “changes,” to use the lingo — familiar to jazz musicians.   The influence of rock (or is it Stravinsky?) is heard in its rhythmic articulation and percussive repetition of musical materials.  Although Chart does invoke these and other elements of contemporary popular music — relentless motion, motivic repetition, driving rhythms —  it uses them only as a point of departure in creating its own rhetoric and syntax, resulting in immediate, fast-paced, physical, and somewhat unruly music.  Chart is not jazz, nor is it rock:  it is in part, however, a reflection of these two dynamic forces that have so dominated American musical culture since the mid-20th century.

Chart was composed on commission for the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra and was first performed by that organization under the direction of Maestro William Hudson at the George Mason University Concert Hall in Fairfax, VA, on October 2, 1993.