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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Sunday, August 2

Harbison's "Three City Blocks"

Synopsis

The American composer John Harbison was born in 1938, and so, as a young lad, grew up at the tail end of the Golden Age of radio and the big band Era of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, the Dorsey Brothers, and Benny Goodman.

“Over the radio,” writes Harbison, “came sounds played by bands in hotels and ballrooms, now distant memories that seemed to a seventh-grade, small town, late-night listener like the pulse of giant imagined cities.”

Decades later, John Harbison translated those early musical memories into a three-movement composition for a big band orchestra. “These sounds,” he recalled, “layered with real experience of some of their places of origin, magnified, distorted, idealized, and destabilized, came into contact with other sounds, some of recent origin, and resulted in a celebratory, menacing suite I titled ‘Three City Blocks.’”

The U.S. Air Force Band gave the premiere performance of “Three City Blocks” on today’s date in 1993. And, keeping in the spirit of the old days when every major hotel could boast its own dance band, Harbison’s “Three City Blocks” premiered at the Hilton Hotel in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Music Played in Today's Program

John Harbison (b. 1938) Three City Blocks New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble; Frank Battisti, cond. Centaur 2288

Additional Information

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