American Tone Poems

American Tone Poems
Mississippi River © Good Free Photos

Music has the ability to instantly transform into pictures, scenes and stories within our minds. Symphonic tone poems are a wonderful way to use music to get away from everyday life and be carried away into other worlds. We have selected some American Tone Poems from the catalogues of Wise Music Group that will take you on an inspiring trip across North and South America.

Silver Ladders (1986) 23’
Joan Tower

The images and feelings of this composition are reflected in the title. Silver Ladders paints the picture of a giant ladder reaching out into the sky. The textures of the music range between heavy and light, firm and fluid, and the constantly recurring but changing context creates a long suspense. Instrumental solos spin forth slowly like liquid metal, fluid and silvery, providing contrast to the solid orchestral ladder surrounding them. Joan Tower, has just been awarded the Composer of the Year Award 2020 by Musical America, and was the first woman to receive the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for this work in 1990.
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Days and Nights in Rocinha (1997) 20’
Philip Glass

Inspired by a stay in Rocinha, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro and known for its lively cultural life and especially its "samba school", Philip Glass dedicated the work to Dennis Russel Davies and the towering Radio Symphonie Orchester Wien. When visiting Rochinha during the weeks before the famous Rio de Janeiro carnival, Glass was inspired to compose a musical impression and tribute to the place.
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Apu: Tone poem for Orchestra (2017) 13’
Gabriela Lena Frank

Gabriela Lena Frank's brings to live through music the Andean Perú story of spirits that are said to inhabit rocks, rivers, and mountain peaks with the intent of keeping a watchful eye on travelers passing through highland roads. The apu is one of the more well-known spirits that is sometimes portrayed as a minor deity with a mischievous side who is rarely seen. Simple folk song and a solemn prayer often successfully placate the apu to ensure safe passage through the mountains. The three-movement composition was commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the National Youth Orchestra of the United States and premiered in 2017 under Marin Alsop.
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Toward the Splendid City (1992) 9’
Richard Danielpour

Loud, opulent, pulsating, cinematic - this work captures the sights and sounds of New York City in the 1980s and 90s. Toward the Splendid City is not only a portrait of the love-hate relationship Richard Danielpour had with his hometown of New York, but also a homage to the commissioner: the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
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The Mississippi River (Suite) (1934) 30’
Florence Price

The Mississippi River Suite is an epic tone poem based on the principle of Smetana's "The Moldau". Starting with the opening notes of the piece, the Mississippi water builds up from a trickle to a mighty river. The music flows from the areas of indigenous people to the land of southern spirituals and New Orleans Jazz, and the listener can hear impressions such as birdsong and spiritual quotations from "Get Down, Moses" or "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen".
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Listen to this selection of American tone poems


(March 2020)