frank stemper

Symphony No. 4 (PROTEST)

for full orchestra — 16 mins.

 – for Guntram Simma and the Collegium Instrumentale Dornbirn


The music unfolds in three continuous movements:

I. Tension is produced by dramatic chords, some abrasive and some beautiful, framing a bugle call.

II. Three consecutive attempts to lighten the tension from Part I with rhythm, percussion, and tune:
         1.— a linear continuo, featuring a short tuba/piccolo duet;
         2.— a silly repeating mantra, initiated by plucked strings;
         3.— a more complex motor-driven texture — conveyor belt music.
However, during Part II, gestures from Part I sneak in, creating an internal conflict, which overheats and stalls, leaving us back where we started.  As if hopelessly giving in to a higher reality, a reality that needs to be addressed, Part III returns to the tension of Part I.

III. Recapitulation and conclusion of Part I, with string solos supported by a “rattling” orchestra.

Music, as the most abstract of the arts, is perhaps the simplest and most visceral method of human communication.  However, Symphony No. 4’s pure sound is Infected by members of the orchestra, who occasionally put down their instruments and make more blatant contact with the audience, e.g. by whispering, making eye contact, speaking, breathing, etc. Such direct contact mingles with the music in, for me, a disturbing way.  My private listening world is forced out of its isolation making me aware of both the orchestra and the other members of the audience as people.  Fantasy and reality become one. 

And then there is the rattling.  Members of the orchestra quietly shake baby rattles, seemingly to protest their frustration with the world.  After all, there is one very wealthy country in our world where school-children are murdered — DAILY — by armed maniacs assisted by unresponsive lawmakers. 


  • Symphony No. 4 MIDI recording15:59