THE ROAD HOME adapted by Stephen Paulus from the Tune: "Prospect" from Southern Harmony (1835)
Terms: Early American music, chromaticism, dissonance, suspensions, homophonic, rallentando, a tempo, ritardando, diminuendo, poco ritardando, poco piu mosso, crescendo, espressivo, dynamics (pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff), fermata
The setting of this Early American tune by Stephen Paulus is a composition that evokes a lonely, searching sound longing for the way home either in the physical world or the spiritual world. The many compositional techniques that play a role in creating this soul searching sound include: a relaxed harmonic and rhythmic tempo, a low range of notes, lyrical step-wise scale patterns, chromaticism, phrase shape, and most importantly dissonance and suspensions. The homophonic hymn-like quality of the composition also gives the song an emotional "soulful" feeling.
WHAT WAS COLONIAL OR "EARLY AMERICAN" MUSIC?
Colonial music was not so much music written in America before the Revolution as it was music that was brought here and helped define the people who were to make a new country. Understanding the music that early Americans chose to sing and play gives us a better understanding of the colonists themselves. Their music included ballads, dance tunes, folk songs and parodies, comic opera arias, drum signals, psalms, minuets and sonatas. Such music came mostly from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France, and Africa, and it was played on whatever instruments were handy.
In early America a wonderful variety of types and styles of music emerged, expressing the full spectrum of colonial life. It is clear that while our ancestors were musically dependent upon Great Britain and Europe, for the most part, uniquely American developments were already felt before 1776. To understand, appreciate, and translate such rich history behind the pleasing melodies and stories told through song—is an important mission.
Some important general concepts. Colonial music involved both written and oral/aural processes. Many people knew a large body of tunes by ear, and we frequently find new sets of words "composed" to fit these older tunes. Single tunes also served a variety of functions: as theater songs, a recruiting song, a dance tune, and a military march. Further, the popularity of specific pieces of music varied over time and by region, depending upon the flow of fashion and backgrounds of people living in a certain area. Some instruments and types of music were more appropriate to certain classes, genders, and ethnic backgrounds.
Composer Stephen Paulus (born August 24, 1949 in Summit, New Jersey) has been hailed as "...a bright, fluent inventor with a ready lyric gift." (The New Yorker) His prolific output of more than two hundred works is represented in many genres, including music for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensembles, solo voice, keyboard and opera. Commissions have been received from the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Houston Symphony and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, with subsequent performances coming from the orchestras of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, St. Louis, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the BBC Radio Orchestra. He has served as Composer in Residence for the orchestras of Atlanta, Minnesota, Tucson and Annapolis, and his works have been championed by such eminent conductors as Sir Neville Marriner, Kurt Masur, Christoph von Dohanyi, Leonard Slatkin, Yoel Levi, the late Robert Shaw, and numerous others.
Paulus was born in Summit, New Jersey, but the family moved to Minnesota when he was two. He attended the University of Minnesota, where he studied with Dominick Argento and eventually earned the Ph.D. in composition in 1978. By 1983, he was named the composer-in-residence at the Minnesota Orchestra, and in 1988 he was also named to the same post at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, whose then-conductor Robert Shaw commissioned numerous choral works from Paulus for Shaw's eponymous vocal ensemble. After the premiere of his first opera, The Postman Always Rings Twice, he began a fruitful collaboration with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis that would result in four more operas. His output has come to include over 350 works, and on his website he formerly used to mention the fact that he is one of the rare living composers who can make a living from commissions alone, without an additional teaching post or similar job.
Paulus currently lives in the Twin Cities area.
Paulus' music has been described by critics and program annotators as rugged, angular, lyrical, lean, rhythmically aggressive, original, often gorgeous, moving, and uniquely American. He writes in a musical language that has been characterized as "...irresistible in kinetic energy and haunting in lyrical design." (Cleveland Plain Dealer) "Mr. Paulus often finds melodic patterns that are fresh and familiar at the same time....His scoring is invariably expert and exceptionally imaginative in textures and use of instruments." (The New York Times). M. Paulus died on Sunday, October 19, 2014.