New World Sketches

New World Sketches is a descriptive journey through the landscapes and images of America in the early part of the 20th century.  The images and caricatures chosen epitomize all that is the ‘New World’, and the musical language draws upon influences of sound and technique that American composers have introduced into the musical vocabulary.


The work opens with a busy street scene of 1930’s New York, and the hustle and bustle of the city can be heard through percussive scoring of car hooters, trams and pedestrians going about their business, featuring elements of George Gershwin’s American In Paris and Rhapsody in Blue.  There is the sound of a Broadway show at figure and a two bar glimpse of a ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoon just before fig. where the music enters a change of both mood and neighbourhood, into a Harlem jazz club or speak-easy.  A reprise of the main theme (seven bars before F) heralds the return to the side-walk which brings the first movement to a close.

The Deep South

As the subtitle suggests, the second movement of New World Sketches evokes images of the 1890’s Deep South beginning with a simple spiritual.  Played first on unaccompanied solo euphonium the melody is then joined by bass trombone, depicting a slave “work song”.  At figure Ithe tempo increases and a resounding tubular bell announces the arrival of a steam locomotive.  The style is marked ritmico; however care must be taken to insure the ‘laziness’ in the melody is not lost.  The trains “Love Chime” whistle can be heard on flutes, oboe, bassoon, clarinets, trumpets and trombones.


The final movement steers away from the jazz influences synonymous in America’s musical history and turns towards the music of Aaron Copland for inspiration.  The opening unison tune, played on piccolo, flutes, oboe, bassoon, tenor sax, trumpet and trombone accompanied by extensive poly-chords (Ab Major superimposed on Bb Major), creates a big-country sound while the fast pseudo-Irish Jig accompanied on Bodhran (played on floor tom) provides the energy and flair of a rodeo.  Section B is a slightly more relaxed folksong portraying images of cowboys at a campfire or village folk dancing a cakewalk at a party.

The folksong evolves rapidly in the middle section and the choral scoring represents that of a small church.  The contrasting nature of the way the melody is scored is perhaps the preacher wizening us against the frivolities and sins occurring at the village dance.  A reprise of the opening rodeo music and a quote of the opening city motif brings New World Sketches to a close

New World Sketches is conceived as a single work however each movement works independently if so desired.  The brass band version can be heard on Doyen Label; DOY CD246 Regionals 2009


Difficulty: Intermediate

Available from: Prima Vista Musikk Ltd