“There is a shimmer to James Lee III’s sound canvass.” Conductor Jed Gaylin shares some insight into the composer’s new work Alas! Babylon’s Final Sunset, which Gaylin conducts in its world premiere on March 1st when he leads the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra at Shriver Hall in Baltimore, MD. Lee will participate in an informal pre-concert chat led by the conductor.
Gaylin continues, “James and I connected years ago when he came to a concert at Hopkins. I have since become familiar with his music [and] I was immediately drawn to it. James is a very imagistic composer, and very imaginative…he thinks and hears very orchestrally. As we were putting together a program that focused on visual music, I really wanted to add James’ voice to the program [and we’re premiering] Alas! Babylon’s Final Sunset as the concert opener…All three works (Grofe and Ravel) have something to do not only with dreaming of beautiful visions, but also dreaming of visions of terror and strife. Alas! Babylon’s Final Sunset is dramatic. [It’s] perhaps a bit more menacing than some of James’ other pieces, but it also has great beauty as well.
“[As a composer,] James is meticulous at his craft. The parts are very idiomatic, very cleanly presented; and, I think the musicians will understand what is called upon from them. Our challenge will be to tease out some of the textures, and make sure James’ vision comes off with clarity, sensuality, and rhythmic drive. For me, there is the additional goal of letting this powerful structure come through as convincingly as possible.”