Stomping with David Schiff

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Thursday, November 8, 2018

OK, here’s a cocktail party question for music mavens: “What do James Brown, the master of funk, and the Soviet symphonic composer Dimitri Shostakovich have in common?”
One answer is this piece of music, which premiered on today’s date in 1990 at Alice Tully Hall in New York City at a concert by Marin Alsop’s Concordia orchestra. The piece is entitled “Stomp,” written by the Seattle-based composer David Schiff.

For starters, on the score of “Stomp,” Schiff includes a reference to James Brown’s music, instructing the players, “Every instrument is treated like a drum.” Also, during its opening, there’s a staccato rhythm based on Brown’s iconic tune, “I Feel Good.”

And the Shostakovich connection? Well, Schiff confesses to modeling “Stomp” on the opening movement of that composer’s Ninth Symphony, right down to a strict imitation of Shostakovich’s repeat of the exposition, in sonata-form style.

On the origin and subsequent use of “Stomp,” Schiff says: “Marin Alsop conducted one of my pieces at Tanglewood in 1988 and later asked me for a new orchestral piece for her Concordia orchestra; since then, ‘Stomp’ has since been played by many orchestras including the LA Philharmonic, who took it to high schools to demonstrate that classical music could be really loud.”
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