Peter Gordon's Symphony No. 5 traces the growth of the New York-based composer's musical ideas from 2007 to 2012. The number "5" of the title refers to the five-year gestation period as well as the five-movement form of the work, and the idea of a "fifth symphony" as a significant point in a composer's trajectory. The composition is a striking and elaborate statement, with the communication and energy of an ensemble performance, and the punch and careful attention to detail of a studio recording.
Peter Gordon has been a driving force of New York's thriving "downtown scene." Performng on saxophones and keyboards, he draws inspiration from musical genres as diverse as jazz, rock, opera and world music. His complex and diverse body of work includes recordings, as well as scores for operas, theater, films and dance.
Gordon performed his first symphony, Symphony in Four Movements, in New York in 1976, with a band that included Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Arthur Russell and Rhys Chatham. Combining disco, electronic, pop and jazz elements with experimental music, he formalized his ensemble - the Love of Life Orchestra (LOLO) - and has kept it active ever since.
LOLO, with its performers grounded in diverse musical backgrounds, has ranged in size from a trio to 12+ musicians. Its core personnel has remained stable since inception, with recent additions from New York's Latin jazz scene. LOLO is represented by several influential recordings - including 1978's Extended Niceties EP (Lust/Unlust Records) and 2010's retrospective album Love of Life (DFA Records).
"The Love of Life Orchestra was founded on the coexistence of multiple musical orientations," Gordon explains. "Counterpoint is central to my music, and prevalent in all five movements of Symphony No. 5. Each voice maintains its integrity and forward motion, but intersecting voices illuminate harmonic and rhythmic dimensions that are shared and larger than any single voice. This is both a musical and social concept: counterpoint developed in Europe during the Enlightenment, when multiple voices needed to coexist, and be heard, for society to function."
Homeland Security was created after Gordon returned to New York City, when the country was at war, with a new culture of surveillance. Juvenalia was inspired by Mannie Freshʼs Project Chick with the Cash Money Millionaires of New Orleans, as well as by the Roman poet Juvenal. Both the Roman and New Orleanian works are built from simple, catchy, and symmetrical phrases.
Gordon imagined Chamber Disco as a danse macabre that begins in a stark, empty, closed-down club. At first stone cold, then festive, it leads up to a spinning frenzy, then drops to a sudden sobriety. After composing Homeland Security, Juvenalia, and Chamber Disco, Gordon completed the symphonic structure with Exposition and Transgression, the first two movements.
Recorded live by producer Jeff Jones "The Jedi Master," who received Grammy Awards for his work with Dr. John and Wynton Marsalis, Symphony No. 5 exhibits Peter Gordon's complex, yet funky, compositional process.
Mr. Gordon keeps a busy schedule. Recently, Robert Ashley's Vidas Perfectas saw Gordon reprise his role as music producer of the seminal video opera Perfect Lives. Future projects see him directing a new version of Arthur Russell's Instrumentals in Europe, as well as a new recording with Tim Burgess (Charlatans), scheduled for release on Record Store Day.
4. Homeland Security
5. Chamber Disco
Peter Gordon - organ & synthesizer
Katie Porter - clarinet & bass clarinet
Paul Shapiro - tenor & soprano saxophones
Max Gordon - trumpet
Peter Zummo - trombone
Bill Ruyle - vibraphone
Ned Sublette - electric guitar
Randy Gun - electric guitar
Yunior Terry - bass guitar
Elio Villafranca - piano
Robby Ameen - drums
Produced by Jeff Jones "The Jedi Master" with Peter Gordon
Excecutive Producer - Benjamin Freeney
Recorded live on June 5, 2013 at Roulette, Brooklyn, NY, USA