Die Nähe zum Jazz, aber auch zur Rock- und Popmusik, war für die Komponisten der USA schon immer selbstverständlich – anders als für ihre europäischen Kollegen, die sich mit dem Überwinden ästhetischer Grenzen bis heute schwer tun. Es war auch diese offenherzige und scheuklappenfreie Haltung gegenüber dem Populären, die den aus Wuppertal stammenden Komponisten und Musikpädagogen Stefan Hakenberg Ende der achtziger Jahre zum Studium in die USA zog. 1999 gründete er gemeinsam mit seiner Ehefrau Jocelyn Clark in Juneau (Alaska) das jährlich stattfindende CrossSound Festival, das Musiker unterschiedlicher Genres und kultureller Traditionen zusammenbringt.

In den Sommermonaten des Jahres 2004 arbeitete Hakenberg eng mit den Musikern des Juneau Student Symphony Orchestra zusammen. Er erforschte ihre individuellen Vorlieben und Befindlichkeiten, ihre Haltung zum Instrument und zum Zusammenspiel im Orchester. Auf der Basis des gesammelten Material schrieb er im folgenden Herbst sein Orchesterstück Give and Take, das 2005 in Juneau uraufgeführt wurde. Das Werk folgt in seinen Umrissen dem Modell der viersätzigen klassisch-romantischen Sinfonie, findet allerdings für die einzelnen Satzcharaktere ganz individuelle, spielerisch-poetische Lösungen.

Auf den gestisch weit ausgreifenden Kopfsatz (Grand Opening) mit kunstvoll verschlungenen Bläserfiguren über liegenden Streicherklängen folgt ein dreiteiliges Scherzo (Road in Wilderness). Der mitreißende Drive dieser „mexikanischen Polka“ stoppt nur kurz für einen geheimnisvollen Hornruf aus der Ferne. Herzstück der Sinfonie ist das lyrische Adagio mit seinem polyphon verdichteten Streichersatz. Das rasante Finale (Pogo Paraphrase) ist als augenzwinkernde Reminiszenz an den Pogo gestaltet, einen Tanz, der in der Punkmusikszene der siebziger Jahre populär wurde. Kurze, scharf synkopierte melodische Formeln durchwandern das Orchester in einer locker vernetzten Bewegungsstudie, die der Komponist mit voller Wucht gegen die Wand prallen lässt.

(Stefan Rütter, 2010)


About Give and Take – a symphony for student orchestra

When I moved to Juneau as a composer, the first thing I did was meet with musicians from the Juneau Symphony Orchestra in order to get to know them and begin working with them. In the course of the years, most of the collaborations between me and musicians from the Juneau Symphony were done as part of CrossSound concerts. With CrossSound, my wife, Jocelyn Clark, and I began commissioning composers from all around the world to write music for ensembles that included Alaskan musicians, mostly from the Juneau Symphony. Generous and collegial help for CrossSound came also from Juneau Symphony members like the DeCherneys and the Symphony's laudable president Susan Burke by housing CrossSound guests and making available personal instruments when luggage did not make it to Juneau on time. Juneau Symphony players who appeared in CrossSound programs regularly starting with the very first one back in 1999 were the concert master Steve Tada, Julia and Nathan Bastuscheck, Sally Schlichting, and Bill Paulick. Another musician in this group was Rick Trostel who is now the director of the Juneau Student Symphony — the educational branch of the Juneau Symphony Orchestra. Over the years, on the basis of true mutual appreciation of each other’s work, Rick and I have become good friends. On this background, it seemed natural when Rick asked me one day if I would write a piece for the Student Symphony. Of course I was thrilled about the opportunity to work with Rick again and at the same time to get to know first hand the up and coming players in Juneau. I also loved the prospect of writing for a symphony orchestra, which to me is the most complete and organic of ensembles that traditional European music practice has created and developed.

My collaboration with Rick began in the Summer of 2004. Rick was rehearsing with the Student Symphony for a lovely and exciting summer concert on the university campus. In addition to their rehearsals, some of the players met with me a number of times to get to know each other. We talked about music we like, about what it actually was in the music that makes it likable to us, and about some technical aspects of music that are interesting to musicians. In the course of our conversations, we also experimented with different sounds. Everybody always had their instruments handy and so, beginning with regular warm-up exercises, we ventured into rudimentary discussions of the individual characteristics of different intervals (the distance between two notes) and the effects of using different scales (sets of notes and relations between them that are used as basic material for musical compositions) on the harmony (the combined sound of different voices coming together at the same time) — all valuable and beneficial musical experiments through which students can experience and discover the grammars of musical traditions.

In the fall of last year I looked at all the material I had gathered from the members of the Student Symphony. I had in front of me a pile of single pieces of information from my personal notes and from questionnaires the students had volunteered to fill out about their personal relations to their instruments, to playing in an orchestra, and to the music they know. I felt like I was sitting in front of a puzzle the picture of which was not yet revealed. One of the orchestra members, for example, had informed me that (s)he liked big symphonic gestures — long crescendos/decrescendos with cymbal strikes and brass chords. This inspired the short first movement of the four-movement symphony I was to write — a single large orchestral gesture called Grand Opening that to me evokes the impression of a wide cascade into the beginning symphonic expanses. All the notes played in the first movement, and in fact in the whole symphony, are derived from a central motive inspired by the experiments the musicians and I had made during our Summer meetings. This motive consists of an undulation around a central tone, one step in one direction – one step back – one step in the opposite direction – one step back. I am inviting players to find in their parts instances of this undulation and ways in which I have modified and extended it. The second movement, Road in Wilderness, owes some of its inspiration to a trombonist who let me know that (s)he felt under-challenged playing long notes in the background. That led me to set the theme of the second movement for trombones. Yet another orchestra member's expressed love for music from the Southwestern USA made me make this second movement a Mexican polka complete with a guiro (a Latin American wooden scrape instrument) part. The quiet middle section of this movement is probably my most personal contribution to this symphony. The polka ceases and we hear French horns in the distance and sounds from the forest filling the room. The continuation of the polka eventually features another aspect I very much liked about the Student Symphony concert I had heard last Summer, the ease at which some of the players improvise. For players interested in improvisation, I turned a short part of the Mexican polka into a little looped vamp. The third movement is a lyrical Adagio. Some of the members of the orchestra had expressed their love for lyrical melodies and individual voice leading. I share this love and it led me to write this slow movement featuring the string ensemble in a very personal polyphonic setting, with the soaring melody at times colored and amplified by woodwinds, and held together by horn pedals. The last movement, Pogo Paraphrase, owes its existence to the remark of an orchestra member that (s)he liked punk music. At the elevated speed of the pogo, a jumping dance of punk fans, this composition features a drum kit, a set of timpani, lead parts in the combined clarinets and trumpets, and a lot of syncopation. It ends the symphony with the big orchestra sound created by everybody playing together at the same time.

(Stefan Hakenberg, 18 Feb 2005)