Jay Schwartz: Music for Orchestra III

Jay Schwartz Music for Orchestra III
Music for Orchestra III

Jay Schwartz: Music for Orchestra III

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for string orchestra
Jay Schwartz
Instrumentation details:
violin I
violin II
Auftrag des Hessischen Rundfunks Frankfurt
for Christian
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Music for Orchestra III

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

The music of Jay Schwartz is composed and develops, put together and unfolded, following a fixed arrangement of time. He allows that nothing at all is left to chance. There are, in principle, no surprises. A point of departure is determined and the work is then led solely by the nature of the material. Each part, each voice part, takes its direction. Each time he traces a closed system, a formal plan where harmonic resonances emerge in both a conscious dramaturgy and an organic order, beyond trial and error. To endorse the proscription of certain acoustic consonances, forbidding half of the meagre twelve, for example, would not be pointless, or even tyrannical, so much as powerless. The drives of composition cannot be absolved of physical relationships. Schwartz investigates the intersections in the paths of tones, where they start to take on an outline, appear to arise by chance, as though there were no organisation, mind behind, only uninvented natural science. He sets up experiments in frequencies, makes acquaintance with the material, but interferes when it gets interesting. Poetics manipulates, makes a clear break in the purity of the physics, whose qualities as art cannot be trusted. This is a decided contradiction.

The composer has a fine ear for aporetic counterpoint. A pair of ears for aporias. His work is not antagonised by dialectics. Schwartz confesses to the excessive and sublime, the archaic primal scream of sound possesses him. From the outset the structure is clear in mind. Homogeneous instrumentation, however exploited, suits his penchant for simplicity. Events evolve slowly, naturally. While working on the details of the piece discoveries are made in the mass of stuff, like stone being distorted, stripped to sculpture, the final form of the music turns out to report the process of its forming; it tells its own story. To achieve the order in mind, one finds out the form it requires–of one. The dionysiac is the apollonian. Organic development, “self-governing”, is literally cybernetic.

Schwartz wants his listeners to keep the dramatic scenario in view, a single train of events, a trail through a landscape. They know where they are in the continuum, as though on a hilltop. And though time is composed only of movement, the memory keeps the path behind alive, able to survey the panorama for what might be coming up. Depending on position, features on a facade narrow and widen; relative to one’s perspective, static objects of a single landscape exchange places.

How a chord in Music for Orchestra III is almost heard to heave out of the void: that infinitesimal series of steps from “silence” to “sounds”; a gorgeous trauma of classical chamber music haunts the metamorphoses of Jay Schwartz. Nothing about the music is meditative, he insists. You cannot help but feel a tense anticipation of what’s to come. The “strain” that is being inescapably prepared. In Music for Orchestra III the musical lines are usually led from several different directions and conducted through an “eye of a needle” of some kind, Schwartz’s “funnel” ductus, like electrons through a minimal slit, where only single particles have the space to pass. In this chiasmal cleft the “infinite” is the most restricted, pure apeiron. An impassable point–point of no dimensions.

Ruskin Watts

Special prints

Music for Orchestra III

Jay Schwartz: Music for Orchestra III

full score
for string orchestra , 20’

Music for Orchestra III

Jay Schwartz: Music for Orchestra III

study score
for string orchestra , 20’

World première

hr Sendesaal, Frankfurt am Main (DE)
Lucas Vis

Press reviews

The work began more as a feeling than as a sound or a sight, as if it were made up less of specific notes as from the results of their interaction, the overtone song of their combination. You didn’t ‘hear’ it so much with your ears as with the area between the solar plexus, stomach and heart muscle, first as an unendingly slow descent, and then as a polyphonic rising and falling, and at the end an ungraceful but not catastrophic landing. (Elisabeth Risch, FAZ)

Jay Schwartz’s Music for Orchestra III, was akin to a religious experience. Playing with glissando harmonic progressions, the piece lands on major thirds, fifths, and unisons and then quickly moves on to the next landing point. The fluttering microtones in between speak to the ephemeral and eternal, the ancient and the avant-garde, all the while focussing purely on organic sound. The third movement ends with a rapid descent, suggesting gravity or perhaps even the fall of man, that reminded me somehow of an inversion of Bach’s cello suite no 1 in G major. […] The mesmeric piece evoked the music of the spheres, reducing audio to a pure state, like the Mother of All Sound.

Hadani Ditmars, International Society for Contemporary Music

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