As part of Orpheus’ ongoing commitment to new works by living composers, the American Notes commissioning initiative seeks to engage composers from diverse musical styles and backgrounds to create works that explore the question of American identity – particularly in our increasingly globalized world. Orpheus is proud to continue the American Notes exploration over the next two years with composers Harold Meltzer, Jessie Montgomery, and Michael Hersch. Each of these composers will begin with the complex question of what defines the American spirit today – the characteristics, experiences, communities, and relationships.
The theme of American Notes is inspired by Charles Dickens’ 1862 travelogue American Notes for General Circulation. Written during a six-month trip throughout the United States just before the outbreak of the Civil War, Dickens documented an America in transition, describing in detail the changing communities he observed. American Notes is also influenced by the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration and its engagement of artists throughout the country, specifically the iconic snapshots taken by photographers in the 1930s. Artists such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans shared a cross-section of American life, capturing the current American identity in diverse settings and providing a record for future generations. In engaging composers with different styles and musical backgrounds, Orpheus hopes to capture musically emotional snapshots and personal aspects of current American identity and spirit.