The American Seasons
The American Seasons: Seasons of an American Life is a Concerto for Violin and Chamber Orchestra. Composed in 1999, the music celebrates the various stages of an American life at the waking of the 21st century. Constructed in four movements and representing four stages of life - birth, adolescence, maturity, and old age - the music also pays homage to Shakespeare's "Seasons of Man" speech, "His acts being seven ages," incorporated throughout the work.
Spring introduces the ideas of birth and infancy. After the principal theme has been stated, there is a violin cadenza encountering all twelve major keys and a 13/8 time signature representing the ancient golden ratio. These elements recall birth with all the possibilities a new life offers. Ending the movement, the principal theme is repeated with more complexity... as if posing life's questions.
Summer represents the excitement and bravado of youthful adolescence and young adulthood. For the style of this movement I use a happy-go-lucky Blues voice which melds into Swing. I identify swing rhythm in all of 20th-century American music culture as a common thread that runs through Ragtime through Rock and Roll on to Rap. Swing means testing the waters and pushing the envelope for lovers and soldiers.
Fall is the slow movement symbolizing the wisdom of maturity. It is a peaceful theme with nostalgic strokes. It is a time for sincere reflection and enjoying one's accomplishments in life.
Winter embodies the complexities and knowledge of an older person and that of a dying person. The movement begins with the principal theme from Spring, but with a dissonance that emanates from a lifetime full of emotions and responsibilities. In the middle of the movement is a transition to an old world. I use my personal ancestry from Ireland as a foundation from which to rediscover one's lineage and explore the meaning and value of a cultural legacy.
The exploration evolves into a four- and five-part fugue with a reel, jig, air, countered bass, and the motif from the principal theme. All these elements, dances, and melodies appear simultaneously and converge to form a unique insight to life's consequences from a historical perspective.
Following the fugue, the principal theme finds its way back in. It sounds much as it did at birth. In the end, the solo violin cadenza carries the last earthly breaths before the violin and orchestra once again join in harmony to focus on a new life being transformed somewhere else. Life's four seasons in perpetuity.
-- Mark O'Connor