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American City by George Flynn

Between 1995 and 1998, in his time as a faculty member at Chicago's DePaul University, composer George Flynn wrote one work each to spotlight the school's three major ensembles. "American City," for the wind ensemble, is probably the most effective of the three compositions featured on this disc, Southport. There's no great overarching theme here; it's primarily a series of motifs designed to represent, perhaps, the hustle and bustle of a city. Flynn is no classicist; there's a definite twentieth-century sensibility here. Reeds and woodwinds drift in and out; the piano emerges and re-emerges. Sometimes the horns make bold statements, other times they serve as coloring.

"The Density of Memory," for clarinet trio and orchestra, also focuses less on melody and more on sweeping brushstrokes of sound, seemingly meant to move the listener on a subjective level. The clarinets anchor the work and the recurring motifs as the orchestra rumbles and sighs in response or comment. The works holds together well, but like the first, takes some time and patience to reap rewards. The final cantata, for chorus, soloists, brass octet and string basses, is Flynn's adaptation of the letters of St. Vincent. There's an inherent awkwardness when a composer takes words not meant to be sung and places them atop a musical context. Here it translates into a stiffness of reading and melody, and the words have trouble coming to life. The interaction of music and voices, however, works slightly better.

As the reader may have surmised at this point, this is a strictly classical recording, and only the jazz fan with an interest in new classical works (with a possible relation to "third stream" sounds) will want to seek this out.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: George Flynn
  • CD Title: American City
  • Genre: Other
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Southport
  • Tracks: American City, The Density of Memory, St. Vincents Words'
  • Rating: Two Stars
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