About this Piece
Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic commissioned All Rise in 1999. The work received its world premiere on December 29, 1999 in Avery Fisher Hall, New York City, by the New York Philharmonic under Music Director Kurt Masur, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, and the Morgan State University Choir, Dr. Nathan Carter, Director. Marsalis has provided the following note for All Rise:
The 20th century has been the century of communication. The 21st will be the century of integration. Now, the global community is becoming more of a reality. But it was already real some 100 years ago to the first jazz musicians in New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans was a major port and, as such, people from all over the world freely traversed the city. The great pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton said, “We had all nations in New Orleans, but with the music, we could creep in close to other people.” Finally, the world is so small that we don’t need music to creep in close to other people; they are close. The larger question of the moment is “What do we have to say to each other?” I guess by now we’ve figured out that the world isn’t going to end tomorrow, so the search is on.
When we finally find each other, the heat of recognition will cause our souls to rise. We will be truly at home in the world. All Rise celebrates togetherness and ascendance in the context of the Blues. The Blues has elements of folk musics from all over the world. The Blues is a system of harmony, a rhythm, a set of textures, a melodic attitude. The Blues is an attitude towards life, which celebrates transcendence through acceptance of what is. Ain’t no use in cryin’ over spilled milk when you could be cleaning it up. It’s gonna spill again, you gonna clean it again, and what you do between the spillin’ and cleanin’ is your very own business.
All Rise is structured in the form of the Blues, 12 movements to the 12 bars. It is separated into three sections of four movements; each section presents different attitudes about the uncontrollable rush of experiences in the quest for happiness. The first four movements are joyous, the second four are more somber and poignant, and movements 9, 10, and 11 are dance movements. Movement 12 is the gospel 6/8 shuffle; a dance, but not in a secular sense.
In some ways, the Blues considers the secular and sacred experiences to be twins. This drives us crazy, because we always want a clear “right” and “wrong,” but that’s just not how life goes. The actual, unpolarized nature of life is really brought home through art. For example, Mahalia Jackson, the most spiritual of gospel singers, imitated and idolized the singing of Bessie Smith, the most low-down and vulgar of Blues singers. This piece has elements of everything from the didgeridoo, ancient Greek music, fugue, the New Orleans funeral cadence, the fiddler’s reel, the clavé, the naningo, the American popular song, Eastern and Near-Eastern scales, and plain old down-home ditties, but I don’t strive to combine many different styles in a “world-music” type of mélange. I only try to hear that they are the same.
Jubal Step. We are created in joy, and we love to create. The main theme is a little riff my great-uncle used to sing when I was a boy.
A Hundred and a Hundred, a Hundred and Twelve.The joy of play; sometimes absurd, but always entertaining. This is based on a little chant that my son sang for about two hours on a train ride.
Go Slow (But Don’t Stop). From the cradle to the grave, everyone loves love, gettin’ it and givin’ it. They been tryin’ to stop it for years, but it just keeps going.
Wild Strumming of Fiddle. We discover that we can do things, and get carried away. We can’t make up our mind and stick to one thing. We want it all. Then we get confused, and think that it’s all about us.
Save Us. Chaos. After you’ve done it, it’s too late. Ain’t no use in beggin’. But the name of the Lord will be found on everybody’s lips in time of crisis. Oh, yes.
Cried, Shouted, then Sung. A New Orleans funeral, with the trombones, which is always our funeral instrument, because they play so loud. The tuba delivers the sermon, which is entitled “Just Deliver the Message,” and then the choir sings about the bitter ironies of exploitation.
Look Beyond. Pastoral in nature, Look Beyond is concerned with redemption through sacrifice, and sacrifice comes in many forms – from Jesus’ most celebrated sacrifice, to the simple sacrifice of a point of view.
The Halls of Erudition and Scholarship (Come Back Home). What they teach there is not necessarily what you want to know, but what you need to know. And no judgement: you can always come back home. As we say in the band, “Don’t run away from it, run towards it.”
El “Gran” Baile de la Reina. We love to have a good time with each other. And dancing is the purest expression of our physical selves. At least the purest you can conduct in public.
Expressbrown Local. Everybody loves trains. And with its chugging, pulling, shaking, shuffling, and galloping, the train will always be the ultimate dancing machine. Whether it’s the Japanese bullet train, the subway, or the ol’ “Rio Grande Galloping Goose,” a train is trying to get somewhere, and that’s all.
Saturday Night Slow Drag. Need we say more?
I Am (Don’t You Run From Me). God’s love is what calls us to rise to the complete fulfillment of who we are. Our choice determines the extent to which we will rise, and the act of rising itself is thanks for His love, which is the source of our life and creativity.
No matter what we choose, we will rise. That’s just what we do out here. In the words of the great author and segregationist William Faulkner, “I believe man will not merely endure: he will prevail.” Coming from the other side of the field, Brother John Estes said, “Now the sun’s gonna shine in my back door some day, Now the wind’s gonna rise, gonna blow my blues away, Now I went to the railroad and looked up at the sun, If the train don’t hurry, gonna be some walkin’ done.”
This note originally appeared in the program book of the New York Philharmonic and appears courtesy of the New York Philharmonic. Copyright New York Philharmonic.