Symphony No. 2

Leroy Medina 2/25/2019

Kevin Puts

Symphony No. 2 (2002)

Listening to this Kevin Puts’s Symphony No. 2 for the first time I was immediately attracted to the longing melodies. This piece begins with a few strings and winds playing a drone while the piano plays a slow and stretched out solo. More instruments are layered on top as the music progresses growing in sound and in texture. As the music progresses different instruments are given a similar melody to play at different times. However, the melody is homophonic, usually accompanied by a drone. The music seamlessly changes to a more triumphant sounding section that is led by a horn solo, preparing the audience for the next section. The next section begins with triplet eighth notes played by the woodwinds conveying a playful atmosphere. Again, the music blends into a brass-heavy triumphant section with a sudden drop of all instruments except a violin. The violin plays a suspenseful sounding solo that unfolds into a Grave and haunting solo. When the solo ends the rest of the orchestra continues to add to the darkness using chromatic passages to create dissonance.

In the second half of the Symphony, the music becomes more dissonant and signs of minimalism are apparent. For example, underneath the melody, there are many ostinatos being played by different sections of the orchestra. High strings go between major second intervals while the low brass play repeated arpeggios. As more instruments are layered, the sense of anxiety begins to grow. Suddenly, the orchestra, once again stops playing except for a violin. The solo at this point seem more tragic and less suspenseful. However, once the orchestra rejoins the violin, the angst of the dissonance returns. As it gets closer to the end the harmony of the music becomes consonant again. Once again, a drone is consistent in the background and an E minor arpeggio is played over the drone by and instrument that sounds like a glass armonica.

In comparison to classical Western practice, the composer strays away from the most common composition techniques. For example, in Western music practice it is not common to have a drone for long periods of time. On the contrary, Kevin Puts repeatedly has drones playing in the background while a melody is generally played on top of it. Another trait that caught my attention was the form of the piece. Although Puts didn’t use sonata from to compose his music, there is still a sense of an exposition up until the first violin solo. Then the development arrives in the sinister section. Although in this section it is difficult to determine where the tonal center is, it is still obvious the key has changed. As for the recapitulation, the melody that had been played by the piano is now lead by the horn. I think one of the major differences between the common composition of a sonata form and Puts’s composition of this symphony are the unforeseen transitions between each section. Ordinarily, there is some kind of harmonic transition that foreshadows the arrival of the next section. Overall, Symphony No. 2 by Kevin Puts was an exciting piece to listen to and an all-around great work with well-balanced traits of Western and modern compositions practices.

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