• Anders Koppel
  • Mulberry Street Symphony (2017)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • 3(pic.afl).2(ca).2.2+cbn/4331/perc/str
  • asx,db,dms
  • 1 hr 12 min

Programme Note

by Anders Koppel

Mulberry Street Symphony (composed 2016-2017) is a work in seven
movements, each one based on one of the famous photos by Jacob Riis depicting
the life among immigrants in New York in the 1880s. Riis - himself an immigrant
from Denmark - was overwhelmed by the hard and desolate life among the
thousands of immigrants like himself, who had hoped for a better life in the
promised land. The work is a eulogy to the life and dreams of these people.
The music is written for a classical symphony orchestra, fronted by three jazz
musicians, who – according to their individual parts – are colouring, wailing and
grooving over the score. This is my 32nd concerto for soloist(s) and orchestra,
but with its epic length of 90 minutes this is much more a symphony with

The work was written with the three musicians, who played the first performances in october 2017, and who I love and respect, in mind.
Benjamin Koppel, alto sax , Scott Colley, bass and Brian Blade, drums.
With their profound understanding of the music and their capacity for catching the
moment, they melt effortless into the symphony orchestra and move the work to where
the border between notation and improvising disappears.

Here is my description of the seven photos that inspired the seven movements.
The titles are all the original.

1.Stranded in the Strange City
A 19-year old boy in his best, maybe only suit, stranded on a staircase, in the
corner, outside closed doors, hoping for food and lodging. Something happened
to his eye. The homeless man watches his surroundings with curious, wondering eyes, and the picture tells a story of arrival, isolation and will to survive.

2.Minding the Baby
The daughters were often kept home from school to look after their younger siblings while their mothers looked for work and food. This is a little song of presence, necessity, love and disappointment; about time that could have been spent on education and making friends.

3.Tommy the Shoeshine Boy
Tommy kept his shoeshine box in a pub and lived on the streets. Constantly on
the move, he was of course a little out of focus on this print - couldn’t stand still.
His mother always tried to catch him in, but never succeeded. Tommy’s life
reflected in the shoes he polished, just as the rhythm of his brushes set the pace.

4.Blind Man
Always standing on the same spot, leaning slightly against the lamppost at the
corner, peddling his rubber-tipped pencils. The darkness in his gaze, the dignity
of his posture. This movement could be characterised as a calm song with odd rhythms and a big repetitive intensification as the conclusion.

5.The Last Mulberry
This tree in the backyard of Mulberry Street 41 was said to be the last of the
grove of mulberry trees the street was named after. Whether it really was a
mulberry is doubtful, but it certainly was the last tree in the neighbourhood.
A blues for the tree and for the time passing by; about the solidity and fragility of the tree in a time of uncertainty. Still blooming every spring, its leaves became more and more sparse. Eventually it was cut down.

6.Bandit’s Roost
The Bandits’ Roost was an alley behind Mulberry Street 59. Young Italian mobsters posing
underneath their mothers’ laundry hanging out to dry. Fragments of a popular
song echo between the walls while plans are being made and energies collected, ready to burst.

7.The New House
In 1894, Riis took part in the realisation of a new home for orphans and
homeless children to be built on a green hill in the countryside. The hymn like character of the symphony’s final movement reflect hopefulness and a certainty about the benefits of helping others. A steadfast belief that is encapsulated in the simplicity of the picture



Full score - Vol. 1/2
Full score - Vol. 2/2