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About this Piece


Composed: 2001-2002

Length: 17 minutes

Orchestration: piccolo, flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (2nd = bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, bass trombone, timpani, almglocken, drum kit, tam-tam, piano ( = electric piano), and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances (world premiere)

The rapid rise of composer Theodore Shapiro within the musical realms of film, theater, television, and the concert stage suggests a talent for which seeming boundaries of genre are mere fictions of academic categorization. His success in film and music for the concert stage have been capped by awards and commissions that have placed him squarely in the demand of studios and performing arts organizations clamoring for new works.

Chambers is a weave of various musical fabrics threaded by blues melodies and jazz inflections, television pop orchestration, classically structured textures, and ambient sounds that form a composite portrait (if not a patchwork quilt) evocative of a New York city playground. There is much about this music that is quasi dream-like, especially at the end when a poetic recall of the opening melodic figure played on the Rhodes piano and almglocken floats over an echo of children's voices from the second movement Scherzo, making a surreal effect. Shapiro creates his form by melding the three movements into an uninterrupted whole. The motif that links them together is that of a descending chromatic figure that takes on different rhythmic shapes as the context changes, rendering different emotional states.

Completed in 2002, Chambers came into being as the result of a joint commission from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; these concerts present its world premiere performances.

The following note was provided by the composer:

"Near where I live in New York City there's a playground that abuts Chambers Street. It is a sonic playground too: You hear the voices of children and adults, bouncing balls, the squeaking of chains on a jungle gym set, the white noise of a fountain, cars driving by. I often go there when contemplating music I'm working on, probably because it encompasses so many of the things that currently fascinate me: nostalgia for childhood, anticipation of fatherhood, the desire to find a haven amidst the noise and chaos of the city. This piece does not describe that place; it is a symphony that comes out of that place.

"I began work on the piece in the summer of 2001, at a time when I anticipated significant changes in my life. At the end of the summer I would get married and move to Los Angeles for a year. As I wrote the piece, I planned to have the first two movements reflect the New York I was immersed in, and then to have the final movement reflect New York from a distance, and a new perspective. Falling chromatic figures that are prominent in the piece - jazzy in the first movement, both aggressive and playful in the second - would become quietly cascading gestures, as the piece would suddenly become very still.

"September 11 added an undeniable layer of meaning to the final movement. The World Trade Center was about ten blocks from the playground. I was never particularly conscious of its proximity, but now it's impossible for me not to think of witnessing the explosion from the park benches. I have to stress that the final movement was not written as a response to the attacks. The final movement was always intended to represent a changed perspective. Needless to say, my perspective has been changed in a way I could have never imagined."

Steven Lacoste is the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Archivist.