Timpani part from FIRST AFRICAN SYMPHONISM IN F & Bb, MOVT. II (FINAL)
Brief outline of the Second Movement ofnAfrican Symphonicism, NO. 1nnWhile the first movement dealt with melodic inventions, this second movement concerns itself with motivic inventions. The movement divides into two parts - each part preceded by a 4 & 8-measure church-bell-like phrases.nnPART I (Mm. 1-259 = 259)nnThe first 4-measures church-bell-like phrase from Movt. I usher in the first part proper.nnFirst Introductory MaterialnMm. 5-13 = 9 mmnnThis essentially portrays the anapestic (short-long pulse set in 6/8 time) motive that is embedded in the main tune that is to follow.nnSecond Introductory Material n(Mm. 14-30 = 17 mm)nnnThe anapestic property is again present, betraying the source of the principal theme to follow - the source being one of the folk tunes of the fisher folks in Accra. The drag and pause motion of fishermen dragging their catch to shore.nnThird Introductory Material n(Mm. 31-38 = 8 mm)nnThe brasses present a remote variant of the anapestic motive in a step-wise descent motion, quartally structured to portray the traditional sound character. This plus its repetition (mm. 39-46 = 8 mm) assume antecedental function and smoothly emerges with its consequent (mm. 39-60 = 22 mm). The asymmetric relationship between the antecedent and its consequent is the fact that the consequent has been dramatically extended to usher in principal theme. The presence of the anapestic property throughout this introductory section unifies it with the principal theme that follows. The n ��../2nprogrammatic dimension of this adapted tune is as follows:nnA young lady is condemned for failing to assist her husband directly with his profession: She marries a fisherman, but cannot go fishing. She marries a farmer, but cannot go farming. She marries a hunter but cannot go hunting. She just wants to be a lady - hence the condemnation. Her outlook might improve if she would combine the secular and the sacred life styles or perhaps it is rather the husband who needs enlightenment.nnPrincipal Theme Proper n(Mm. 61-87 = 27 mm.)nnThree basic layers are discernible. The arpeggiated figure in Violin I and upper woodwind, the main tune projected by the inner strings and inner woodwinds and the third being the holding tones by the brasses. This section is solidly founded in the principal key area of Bb.nnSolemn Interpolationnn(Mm. 88-97 = 10 mm.)nnThis sequential projection is stated in the strings. It is somewhat dissimilar to the anapestic motive and functions as a long structural up-beat to the yet another anapestic motivic derivative that follows.nnSecond Motivic Workoutn(Mm. 98-122 = 25 mm)nnThe metric foot here consists of tribrach or choree cells (short-short-short) cellular sequential projections. It assumes a rocket trajectory that leads to the third motivic/melodic utterance. The root pedals provide the necessary buoyancy for the parallel octave tribrachic projections. nnThird motivic workout n(Mm. 123-140 = 18 mm.)nnHere, a rather charming melodic utterance emerges that, from the programmatic perspective, testify to the glory entailed in matrimony when understanding prevails.nn ��../3nnMm. 141-259 = 119nnThis is essentially, a variant repetition of the preceding principal theme, the solemn interpolation as well as the 2nd and 3rd motivic workouts that also round off the first part.nnPART II (Mm. 260-471)nnThe woodwinds, timpani and percussion intone the church-bell-like passage again (mm. 260-268 = 8 mm.) to usher in Part II proper.nnMm. 269-292 = 23 mm.n(Antecedent)nnThis segment displays a fourth motivic invention. The strings, supported by the bassoons present an aborted contrapuntal activity. It assumes antecedental function. nn(Mm. 280-292 = 13 mm.)n(Consequent)nnIts consequential balance depicts the 16th-note partially running bass figuration, the 16th-note partially running decorative figuration in the woodwinds, with the melodic activity in-between.nn(Mm. 292-295 = 4)nAntecedental)nnAnother conversation ensues. The woodwinds pose the brief question. This is posed in the key of unconfirmed Ab and modulates to the relative minor key of f.nn(Mm. 296-312 = 16 mm)n(Consequential)nnThe trumpets state the melody, while the horns provide the backgound atmosphere. The basses provide a memorable counter-melody. Here, again, the answer is stated in Ab that modulates to the relative minor of f. The n ��../4npattern is repeated in Eb and eventually modulates to its relative minor of c.nMm. 312-333 = 22nnThe conversation continues in the woodwinds, supported by the upper strings that provide the background figuration. The sentiment is essentially in the minor mode.nnMm. 334-342 = 9 mm.nnThe strings, trumpets, lower woodwinds, in a descending sequential trajectory, present an interpolatory material that prepares the entry of another passionate momentnnMm. 343-370 = 28 mm.nnThe previous Ab major sentiment now becomes an Ab minor sentiment that emphasizes its relative major as well. This unresolved dilemma quickly shifts to V of Bb (m. 349), with the dominant tone emphasized by the addition of its tritone and flatted 7th. This pattern is twice repeated before giving way to the essential principal theme that progresses to the end of the section (m. 370). The defiant chirps in the piccolos and basses add to the drama and charm of the section.n With a 2-measure clarion call (tutti - mm. 372-373) our attention is drawn to a sacred atmosphere once again by the strings.nnMm. 373-410 = 38 mmnnThe strings present this solemn rendition (Mm. 373-386 = 14 mm) that is immediately repeated by the entire ensemble. The passage is then intensified via eight-note attack points (mm. 387-410 = 24 mm). The strings then offer a diversionary solemn pizzicato passage that leads to a 3-measure tribrachic passage intensified via parallel octave figuration (mm. 415-417).nnMm. 418-434 = 17 mm)nnA final motivic invention is presented - again from the perspective of the singing mannerism of the Anglo Eves. A modal scale passage starting on C leads to its repetition starting on F. The inner quartal activity and its n ��../5nrepetition are set a tritone apart. A rather jarring effect is produced, though, just for the brief moment as the inner quartal rendition preserve their integrity. The percussion battery here take the edge off the dissonance as they offer an alternative charm in drumming.nnMm. 435-471 = 37 mmnnThis segment closes the piece in the predominantly pleasant sonority. From another perspective, the Bb ending of the first movement and the F major ending of the second are not considered antagonistic tonal areas and so require no reconciliation. The work is triumphantly cadenced.nnE. Gyimah LabinSeattle, WA, USAnSeptember 2010nnnn
The Roots of Dr. E. Gyimah Labi, the Ghanaian-American Symphony Composer
Labi hails from Larteh, in the Akwapim district of the Eastern region of Ghana some thirty-five miles from Accra, the capital. His father was the Late Henry Christian Labi, past teacher of mathematics, Twi (principal vernacular in Ghana) and in charge of cultural activities for over a quarter of a century at Achimota School (formally, Prince of Wales College). His mother was the Late May Afua Acheampong. She became the head mistress for a number of vocational schools for girls, as well as a practitioner of spiritualism and was a proficient astrologer. Both parents were distant cousins. Her life was marked by endless meditations, vegetarianism, fasting and prayer. She did these with an amazing degree of dedication. Also, she possessed natural musical talent. Sing a tune and she would sing along and improvise the other parts as well. Her days as a chorister in her local Anglican church served her well in this regard. Shortly after marriage that resulted in my birth, the pair went their separate ways - each remarrying. Mother remarried a businessman/spiritualist who had settled in Ghana from the Republic of Benin. He had traveled to Larteh to learn about the spitirual practices that the town is known for (the Akonode Shrine). There he found his partner. This new pair extended their services to many - including the high ups in Ghana, - businessmen and politicians. My research reveals that this eminent man returned to his homeland after about a decade�s stay, soon after the over-through of Ghana�s first Republic (1966). From this relationship came three lovely half sisters. Though I did not live with my mother, I saw to it that her household was safe before departing for further studies in the United States in 1977. They are all locally married, living independent fruitful lives, just as is the case with my other set of half-siblings of my father and are all seniors respectively, with local and overseas residences. In my subjective judgment, mother was one of the two most beautiful women ever encountered in mind, body and spirit. The other was my aunt Victoria (the education officer), who directed my path during my adolescent years, and they had the "smarts" too. Concerning my early childhood, I was raised by my grand-mother at Larteh. Grand�ma, Late Caroline Darkoa Gyare, was the leader of the Association of singers of her Anglican church and took me along to all their conventions. I remember that during those travels, I would sing back the songs that the singers would be singing in the �mummy� truck and the ladies in turn would shower pennies on me. Incidentally, my maternal grand father was the Late Kwasi Akyeampong, who had settled at Larteh from the royal house in Kumewu, in the Ashanti region. This Freemason became the highest ranking police officer in the Gold Coast police force. He died in a motor car accident while on national assignment. He had noted in his diary that �There is no armor against fate.� Soon father came for me for the start of my primary through secondary education on Achimota school campus. The total number of children in father�s household was nine. He practiced a �no child left behind policy� - a very unique, astute, principled and dedicated father for his time. Incidentally, his father was also a chief at Larteh - �Enyineh (chief) Kwame Kortoh� by name. Growing up on Achimota School campus, I was to absorb musical influences, from Gilbert and Sulivan operas that were acted by Achimota School students, with Norman Hill (An Englishman and fellow of the Royal College of Organists) at the organ at the center of the hall. The costumes were of such brilliance that they could only have been imported. Norman Hill, this most remarkable musician, lived across the street from us. In time, Philip Gheho joined the teaching staff after his music studies from England with the necessary diploma. He composed the Ghana National Anthem and was the founding father of the Ghana Symphony Orchestra upon the dictates of Kwame Nkrumah, the president of our first Republic. Shortly after, Robert Kwame also joined the music teaching staff. He also came in after his music studies from England. He was the first Ghanaian to possess a Bachelor of Music (B�Mus) degree. Later, I learn that there was great rivalry between Robert Kwame and Philip Gheho as to who was the better Ghanaian musician. Robert did not live for long. He died through a car accident. Continuing with the campus activities: The art department also contributed in the intense campus activities at this time. Their role was to prepare the sets that were used on stage. This also brought out the best from that department. �Gesamptkunstwerk� as Wagner appropriately describes what the production of an opera entails. The front rows in the huge assembly hall was reserved for staff children. As a child, I found the interludes equally charming. Frequently, these productions were broadcast nationally. So, before my primary education, I was already whistling tunes form Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Other influences came from traditional songs, drumming and dances that the Achimota students periodically produced. So musically rich, were these early years. Many students learned to play the organ to varying degrees of proficiency - at least, enough to accompany the daily morning devotional service. Much later, when I became an Achimota student (1964-71), I observed the presence of many fine teachers - including several expatriates, mostly from England. Among them was a most accomplished and dedicated music teacher, an Englishman, �John Barham,� by name, a London B�Mus holder at that time. He directed the music program. Did Norman Hill arrange for this as he was about to leave Achimota for good - back to England after over a decade�s stay at Achimota? (1965). For the first time in my young life, I felt a deep sense of lose about this departure. Well, John’s coming was a blessing beyond the understanding of us young lads. Each time that John returned from his London Summer vacation, he had special presents for us in the form of scores and recordings to be added to the collection that had built-up over the years. Now, I would briefly highlight the musical life at Achimota as I experienced it. It involved the bi-yearly production of a Guilbert and Sullivan Opera, a yearly 9 Lessons and Carols, a bi-yearly choral competition amongst all the halls of residence. The music instruction that we received through the guidance of John Barham was so good that it led to the early flowering of a colleague of mine, late Robert K. Ansah. He was a science student with music added on. When we were in the Sixth form (pre-university), he wrote an anthem for the school choir, with organ/piano accompaniment. This piece was so good that, for a moment, we thought we had Handel with us. I had so much difficulty keeping my face dry of tears of emotions. In our conversations, he would say that, I, would continue composing and my reaction would be that: �Hey� Why me? You and I would both be composing. This brilliant young scholar went on to become a medical student at the Korlebu Teaching Hospital in Accra. During the second year of his studies, he passed on due to brain hemorrhaging. So, indeed, the medical and the music circles would be one brilliant young man short. I must note here that when it was my turn to lead my hall, (Lugard House), in this competition as its conductor, I won the cup that year with a tune I had harmonized and arranged. Later, during my Sixth Form (pre-university) days, my fantasia for Orchestra was premiered at Achimota by the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation Orchestra with its music director, George Akrofi, conducting (1970) - thus becoming the first music student to have had his work performed by the Nation�s Radio Orchestra - attesting to the quality of instruction we had received under our illustrious music teacher, John Barham. There was also the yearly ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) Exams for all the instruments of the orchestra - from Grade I through Grade VIII to the Licentiate. Examiners from England traveled to the relevant centers, across Africa, examining students, each year. Those who obtained distinction at the Grade VIII (final) level, would earn automatic scholarships for further studies in England. There was the ever present student orchestra and chorus that students were encouraged to participate in. Incidentally, there was also a bi-yearly gardening competition between the various halls of residence. During my student days at Achimota, we took not only the West Africa G.C.E. (General Certificate of Exams) in the other subjects, but the London G.C.E. (Ordinary and Advanced) music exams, in particular, as well. After my A-Level (pre-university) studies, I was hired by the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation as cellist/composer for the GBC Orchestra as well as writing scripts to classical music programs for radio. Now, I must mention a fine composer that I shared honors and acclaim with at this early stage in my musical development. He was the late Professor Nicholas Zinzendorf Nayo, of University of Ghana at Legon. He was a University of Boston trained composer, with a Master of Music (M�Mus) degree in composition. So, the Achimota School trained musician was vying for honors with the Boston trained composer. In my judgment, Nayo could have presented his perspective as a composer better to the world, if he had chosen to settle in the West. My reason for this comment is that he did transcend the local orchestra and needed a bigger platform. He came up with pieces such as the �Volta Symphony,� The Accra Symphony,� �Overture Reconciliation,� The Orchestral suite �Atlantika� and host of rather charming choral pieces - most of which I was to conduct during in my capacity as his assistant as he had been invited to take over the directorship of the Ghana Symphony Orchestra. Old Phillip Gheho had passed and Nayo had replaced him. I had also joined the University of Ghana, School of Performing Arts, Department of Music staff (1988) after my graduate studies in America and some wondering. So, Nayo and I were to meet at Legon music department as old friends. He and I were again to have full access to the National Symphony Orchestra - where we freely experimented with our compositions. Nayo passed on in 1993 after some health problems and in time I also directed the NSO in 1996. I was to make a final move to the United States the following year 1997. So, after Achimota School and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation days commencing in 1972), I proceeded to the University of Ghana (1973-76), earning a BA degree in Music with Philosophy. I spent the 1976-77 academic year as a teaching assistant at the University of Ghana, music department as well as continuing my activities at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation. I proceeded to the United States of America, spending six years on my graduate studies (1977-1983) - specifically at the School of Music at Urbana-Champaign (1977-80). Special acquaintances at Urbana-Champaign included, for theory/composition: Profs. Ben Johnston, Thomas Friedrickson, Paul Zonn, and Edwin London. Paul Vermel (orchestral conducting), Harry Begian (band conducting) and Olson Decker (choral conducting). The most thrilling progression was my journey to the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, for my doctoral program (1980-83) after very hard and thorough preparation. I suspect that I could have been the numero uno of the four candidates selected for composition that year. My final guiding professor at Cincinnati was the late Professor Jonathan D. Kramer, a master theoretician, particularly pertaining to the music from the twentieth century and beyond - (Stravinsky, Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School and Bela Bartok). Another professor who impressed me at the conservatory was the late Professor Scott Huston with his �history of theory.� courses. It had not quite donned on me that the construction of Western orchestral instruments and the evolution of the �scale types� throughout its history had so much �physics of sound� behind them. But I had never bolted from any music class before and I was not about to break that pattern. Though getting tired, I mustered up courage to face Prof. Houston�s �history of theory� courses. They were indeed most enlightening. My Post Graduate activities centered in Nigeria, specifically at the University of Nigeria at Nsukka with two years of service. Then, a return to the in United States, (July 1985) where another �fantasia� of mine for Orchestra was premiered by the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra (July 1986) with Tania Leone conducting. Also I lectured briefly at Mercy College, Dubbs Ferry, New York (1987). However, I had to accept an appointment to join the teaching staff at the University of Ghana, music department, where I believed I would make the greatest impact (August 1988). My decade of service propelled me to the rank of Associate Professor (1996). An interesting activity at this time was a commission from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society for a new piece for Six Pianos and Orchestra for the RLPO and Piano Circus, a group of six pianists based in London. The commission was in November, 1995 and the piece (Symphony-Concertante for Six Pianos and Orchestra - �Baptism by Fire� was premiered in Liverpool the following year, November 1996. This Piece has since been reduced for Three Pianos and Orchestra and has received its US debut in March 2000 - during my final settlement in America, since Nov. 1997. This involved the St Louise Symphomy Orchestra and three eminent American pianists - with �maestro� Leone Burke III conducting. Also, I lectured briefly at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey (2000) then moved to Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey from June 2001 to December 2004. 2005 to August 2007 was spent accompanying church services at Goodwill Rescue Mission, New Jersey and editing several scores for African Musical Arts in Saint Louis, Missouri in my capacity as a member of its Editorial Board. Since November 2007, I have settled in Seattle, with a resumption of my creative endeavors. I married my university angel of 1978 in 1985 in Brooklyn, New York and we soon begot an angel daughter. When my ex-wife lived in Ghana, she taught at Lincoln School - specifically for the children of American and other Western diplomats resident in Accra, the school that our daughter also attended. The most enviable part of her life at this time was commuting between Ghana and the United Stated, for all their long vacations. Finally. I am now a naturalized American citizen - and in reiteration, currently, based in the lovely city of Seattle, in the State of Washington - continuing with my creative endeavors - including this symphony that follows.
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