“I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot,
of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness.
By the time I reached Boston, I had a definite plot of the piece, as distinguished
from its actual substance.”
– George Gershwin
George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” is a masterpiece of American music and a tribute to the vibrant and bustling city of New York. The piece is a fusion of classical and jazz music, reflecting the spirit of the Jazz Age and the energy of urban life.
Visually, the opening clarinet solo, in a slow and soulful manner, represents the vastness of the city skyline, and as the band joins in, it portrays the diversity of the city. The music quickly becomes more upbeat and lively, like the hustle and bustle of the busy city streets. The brass and percussion sections contribute to the dynamic and vibrant rhythm, depicting the energy and vitality of New York.
Throughout the piece, the music switches between melancholic and contemplative passages, such as the beautiful piano interlude, to more lively and upbeat sections, showcasing the city’s contrasting moods. The famous glissando played by the clarinet, known as the “wail,” perfectly captures the sound of sirens and other noises commonly heard in the city.
The piece truly reflects the city’s diversity with its fusion of classical and jazz music. Gershwin intended to create a sound that would reflect the melting pot of cultures and people that made up New York City. It was premiered in New York in 1924, at a time when the city was experiencing significant growth and cultural change.
The Rhapsody in Blue is a celebration of the city, its people, and its diverse culture, as well as a reflection of Gershwin’s love for the city he called home. It remains an iconic piece of American music and a tribute to the city that inspired it.
“Out of the Blue” was originally commissioned for Great Oak HS (Temecula, CA) for their 2015 MBOS season.