Kyle Gann: Street Music

In October of 2009 I got an e-mail from some ensemble called thingNY that read:

"On Saturday, December 19, 2009, we will be presenting a concert called SPAM, based on responses we get to this very email. Congratulations! If you're reading this email, you've been selected to write us some music - even if you've never written music before. It could be a few words, a notated score, a set of instructions, a drawing, a video of your dog, your favorite photo of Leonard Nimoy, or anything else you can imagine."

The ensemble was listed as clarinet, saxophone, percussion, voice, violin, and cello. A couple of years previous on my Amsterdam sabbatical I had had the pants charmed off me by a local street-music group of clarinets, accordions, sax, and drum, and ever since then I'd been itching to write something loud and fast for that combination. With its clarinet, sax, and drum, thingNY was close enough. I checked out their web site, listened to some recordings, and they seemed like pretty darned good musicians, so I got busy and over a couple of weekends wrote them a six-minute piece called Street Music. The only things I object to about real street music are that 1. it's always in standard meters and phrases divisible by four, and 2. it's not very chromatic and doesn't change key often. In this piece I fixed those two things. So I sent them this feistily difficult little piece, figuring that even if they said "No way!" I'd still have a new piece, and lo and behold they performed it on a concert featuring almost every other response they got to the e-mail (including "unsubscribe" messages). It was a fun evening during a historic New York City blizzard.

World premiere: December 19, 2009, at University of the Streets, New York City, by thingNY

- Kyle Gann

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