Taking a page from my students’ notebooks, I return to a favorite topic. Kids variously call it tunes, beats, bars, choons.... however their slang for it evolves, its own language never needs translation.
So, today—music that quickens my pulse, fourteen years after the first listening:
Paul Hindemith, Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (1943)
I first encountered Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis as a student at Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina in 2001. I had the rare privilege (for me) of being principal second violin that week, so most of my evenings were spent listening to the CD while marking bowings and cues.
Hindemith’s music infected me from the first note. Its vaguely psychedelic remix of Weber’s nineteenth-century melodies, its sonic color splashes and razor-sharp rhythms, gripped mind and body—it was agonizing to restrain my foot-tapping during rehearsals and performance. He tricks out Weber’s phrases in full-throated twentieth-century harmonies, jazz syncopation, and jubilantly wide-ranging instrumentation. His methods of “metamorphosing” Weber’s music vary, but one of my favorites occurs at the end of movement two. Here, Weber’s melody line gorgeously decomposes— or rather, it is lovingly dismembered: the timpani makes the first real cut, tossing around hunks of melody line before ceding them to the woodwinds and other percussionists, who atomize the phrases into just-recognizable fragments (11:30 in video - performed by the Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado de Sao Paulo).