Symphony No. 9
"The Seasons" (grade 5)
Symphony No. 9 is, without doubt, one of the most personally meaningful commissions I have ever received. It was initiated by my good friend and former student, Dan Chaston, who organized a consortium of alumni from the University of New Hampshire, in gratitude for my “years of service as a musician, educator, mentor, colleague, and friend.” What an honor. It still seems unbelievable that all these wonderful people would want to thank me in such a way. And to make it even more enticing, they told me to simply write anything I wanted, which resulted in this symphony.
Although Symphony No. 9 is subtitled “The Seasons,” it is also intimately connected to my own experiences over the passing years at the University of New Hampshire, with each movement reflecting my own emotions about each season. I also asked my daughter, Adeline Boysen, who was an art major at the University of New Hampshire at the time, to take photos around our building, the Paul Creative Arts Center, over the course of the year. The accompanying photos for each movement were taken just outside the building and should portray a sense of each season on our campus.
Rather than begin with spring, I chose to start at the beginning of the calendar year, with Winter. Winter in New Hampshire can be filled with snow and ice and cold, and this is how the season has often been portrayed musically, full of bluster and chaos. Instead, I chose to focus on the quiet and solitude that follow those huge snow storms. We live in a fairly rural area of Durham, and I love going outside at night after a blizzard and simply standing in the immense silence of a cold winter night.
Spring is a bright and beautiful time on our campus, full of energy and exuberance, and that influenced the type of music I wanted to write for the second movement. I also wished to incorporate singing in a significant way within the piece, since singing has always been a significant part of my approach to composition. This time, I went even further than normal, asking the singers to perform much more dexterous music than I would usually, and I think I was somewhat influenced by the old Swingle Singers recordings I remember my parents playing.
Summer suggested two disparate visions to me and I tried to portray both of them in this movement. First is the lush and languid nature of a humid summer New England day, demonstrated by the rich green of the accompanying photo. Of equal importance to where we live, though, is our proximity to the ocean, as we are only a short twenty-minute drive to fun-filled, sun-drenched beach days.
I wanted Fall to be the final movement because it is truly the most beautiful and special season in New Hampshire. The changing colors of the leaves, even right outside our building on campus, is both stunning and extraordinary. Similarly, there is truly something special about the fall in the lives of teachers. For us, it is a time of new beginnings, new plans, and excitement for the year ahead. It is a time of hope and joy, and certainly the most fitting way to conclude a piece that was intended to honor my friends and colleagues.
The organization for the piece grows out of the main theme of this final movement. After a pick-up note, the first four notes of this melody are C, D, E, and F, and these four notes become the key area for each of the four movements of the symphony. I chose to also use the same melody in each movement, slightly altering it each time, so that in the first movement it is in C minor, in the second movement it is in D mixolydian, in the third movement it is in E whole tone, and in the final movement it is in F major. Each movement is also in ABA form, with the B section using the retrograde of the melody and moving to the dominant key area.
The following teachers (and schools) were members of the consortium. They are all my very dear friends and I will be forever grateful to them for their important role in my life.
Bishop Guertin High School, Nashua, NH, Brian Starck, Director
Bridgewater-Raritan High School, Bridgewater, NJ , Tom Bourgault, Director
Exeter High School, Exeter, NH, Tim Miles, Director
Kappa Kappa Psi – Iota Phi, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Lake Region High School, Naples, ME, Sarah Foster, Director
Marshwood High School, South Berwick, ME, Dave Graichen, Director Memorial High School, Manchester, NH, Tim Russell, Director
North Attleboro Music Department, North Attleboro, MA, Thomas Rizzo, Director
Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, NH, Rick Cook, Director
University of Maine, Orono, ME, Philip Edelman, Director
Utah Valley University, Orem, UT, Tom Keck, Director
Viewmont High School, Bountiful, UT, Dan Chaston, Director