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I have rambled quite extensively about my love of what is going on in music these days. I have several favorite new composers. At the very top of that list is Adam Schoenberg. I love his style. He fits the mold of these new composers that have returned to a sense of melody and tonality. However, his music has such an unbridled optimism. When a lot of music for a long time has been so introspective and so mathematical or contrived and mechanic it is very refreshing to hear someone composing for the sake of optimism, positivity and beauty. His music is just flat exciting and beautiful in the simplest of ways. That is the thing that draws me to his music the most. That being said the other thing that draws me to his music is his style of layering rhythms. It is like a 3D jigsaw puzzle of sounds that fit together so perfectly and give so much complexity to a sound that even though there are so many parts that add up to what you end up hearing the sound has a singular clarity to it. You hear melody. You don't hear incongruent noise. The structure of what is underneath that top layer is so awesome. To me it is like the next level of what Steven Reich created in his style of minimalism. It is like next level John Adams. It is those subtle shifts in rhythm or pitches that progress the piece along or direct the melodies that you hear. He composes in segments within segments within segments. There is always a pulse that carries and links the whole thing through. The way in which he is different is that he uses that Steven Reich sort of rhythmic base as a base, but while Steve just leaves the melody and the harmonic progression and other things such as the contrapuntal development at its most minimal, Adam really brings it alive. It is like Steven Reich and Phillip Glass turned inside out and stapled together and layered up and a incredible melody either put on top of it or woven within the mass of sounds. I love his atmosphere. I love his optimism. He is really writing some thrilling and soul stirringly gorgeous music. 

One of the best pieces to describe his style and to showcase that layering of rhythms is his 1st (American) Symphony especially the first movement and again especially towards the end of it. You get 8 layers of things going on that all add up to a perfect synthesis of sounds and it produces an unbelievably exciting line of pure melody. However, that is not the piece that I want to showcase this time. I want to talk about his Picture Studies. His Picture Studies was written in 2012 for the Kansas City Symphony. It is written to be a modern version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. It has 10 movements. Each movement is representative of a piece of art that he chose upon a trip to our local Nelson-Atkins Museum. He chose sculpture, painting, and photography. I believe it is one of his best works to date. I actually got to be at the world premiere of this piece. It was breath taking. 

It is a very complete work that tells a full story. It is like a very well thought out pop album where each song progresses perfectly to the next and each plays its role in the larger collection. 

Fortunately they have posted the recordings on youtube for free. This is the most recent recording of the Kansas City Symphony. It is a recording of strictly Adam Schoenberg piece. Starts with one of his first which is Finding Rothko, then his American symphony and ends with one of his most recent which is his Picture Studies. A great example of what I refer to when discussing his style is movement four of the Picture Studies. It shows the segments of rhythms that are strung together to create something bigger and more complete than the individual parts. It shows those shifts that progress those segments along seamlessly. And it is GORGEOUS! The Kandinsky movement literally blew me out of my seat in Helzberg Hall. The most shockingly ingenious thing I had ever heard performed live. Plus, cannot get enough of the incredibly uplifting and inspiring last movement with the photograph of the pigeons. 

You absolutely need to buy this recording. Not only is the music incredible, but the recording is top notch. Play it through a good surround sound set up. It will jazz you up - hopefully.


These are the program notes for the piece: 



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These are the images of the pieces of art that I could find online


This is the cover of the album, but also the artwork that inspired the 2nd movement called Three Pierots:




This was the inspiration for the 4th movement called Olive Orchard:




This is the Kandinsky that inspired the 5th movement:




This is sort of the inspiration for the short segment of music that leads into the final movement. It is a connective idea. This and the last photograph are related in theme. It is called Cliffs of Moher. It is a Japanese photograph:




This is the photograph that inspired the last movement called Pigeons in Flight:



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5 hours ago, TJS said:

None of the music is available.


Hmmm. When I click on the links the video plays for me embedded. I can also go through to youtube and listen to it. Maybe it is a possibility that you have to subscribe to the page that supplied the posts? or maybe you are in a country that doesn't allow the content provided? It is provided by Naxos and I do have a subscription to that service because of my symphony season subscription. Though, I don't think that is the issue. That's strange. I am glad you tried to listen. I want people to hear this and become familiar with Adam. 

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