From the recording Radio Waves
The “Symphony #3 in E minor” by James Domine is a judiciously analytical compendium of performance practices associated with American popular music. For that reason the piece is subtitled, “Made in America.” The composer employs a spectrum of melodic modes and characteristic rhythms that together comprise a unique musical statement that is uncharacteristically at home in both the symphonic and popular music worlds.
The composer attributes the overall style of the Third Symphony to the influences of the dynamic collaboration between the orchestra and the vintage rock band Vanilla Fudge. Sketches for the symphony were originally intended to serve as the basis for a concerto that would feature the San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra in a live concert with the Vanilla Fudge. This concert eventually materialized in a live performance and is evidenced in the DVD recording currently available as “When Worlds Collide.” Paucity of rehearsal time however prohibited the full execution of a new piece and what remained of the concerto project eventually found its way into the Symphony #3. Along with echoes of the Vanilla Fudge, the astute listener will also hear ephemeral paraphrases of other rock bands of the period, as well as symphonic allusions to music by Handel, Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Ravel. This symphony represents a complex confluence of quintessentially classical compositional styles that combine to form a unique orchestral tapestry steeped in idiomatic American pop music techniques.
The first movement, “Radio Waves,” is cast in the traditional sonata form. The principal theme is first stated in the trombones framed by a fanfare that sets the tone for the movement. The tempo is marked “Allegro Assai” and the attitude is that of a song heard on AM radio. The contrastingly mellow second theme is played by the cellos supported by the woodwinds, pizzicato strings and the harp, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of a Motown hit. The codetta is set to a hard rock beat that increases in orchestral density until it ultimately reaches a dramatic point of no return in repeated dissonant clashing chords of conflict.
The development section juxtaposes the two main themes in a dialogue that evolves through eight entangled sequential episodes winding in the fullness of time to the recapitulation. The first theme returns not as originally stated in the exposition, but rather twice as fast in diminution played by the first violins doubled by the clarinet. The second theme emerges in the tonic key played by the cellos and in the second strain is taken up by the violins. The rock ‘n’roll rhythm of the coda compels the movement to its inexorable conclusion.
James Domine coducts the San fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra in an archival recording made live in concert April 23, 2011 at the Pierce College Performing Arts Theater in Woodland Hills, California.