TWO TOGETHER Orchestral Music for Family Relaxation by Stephen Cohn
Whimsical, warm and modern arrangements of American Folk Music with classical instrumentation including flutes, oboe, English horn, cello, clarinet, viola, piano. The instrumentation on this award-winning CD was composed and arranged by Emmy Award winning composer Stephen Cohn, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and chamber ensembles featuring soloists from the orchestra.
ABOUT THIS MUSIC:
The suite starts with an orchestral overture followed by six pieces for chamber ensembles. Three different quartets were used for these six chamber works featuring flute, oboe, harp, cello, French horn, piano, bassoon, clarinet and viola. The instruments were chosen rather whimsically in response to the ideas that the melodies inspired.
Each of the six pieces, following the overture, is composed in the style of a free-handed theme and variations, and is based on a well known folk melody. The suite then culminates in an orchestral finale which brings the main musical ideas of the suite together. Two of the melodies used, Scarborough Fair and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, are actually European in origin but have been performed by so many American folk singers and have become such an integral part of our melting pot heritage that it seems appropriate to include them in an American Folk Music Suite. Folk music is, after all, a tradition which is passed down from mouth to mouth.
I grew up in a family that thrived on music. Classical music was the center of our home; all of us played it, listened to it, and loved it. However, there were other kinds of music as well. My parents had many albums of pop and jazz music of the day; they also particularly revered great folk music and folk singers. My mother felt it was important for my sister and me to feel the magnetic pull and pure joy of American folk music and to feel that we were part of this heritage. We, of course, fell in love with this music very quickly and it became part of us, ingrained in our hearts, never to leave.
When I was considering the music selections for TWO TOGETHER, I thought about how historically, we Americans share a love of cultural freedom and creative expression. It reminded me of the precious heritage of folk music that my mother gave to me. I was excited by the idea that I might offer my love for these melodies and my passion for creating good music to mothers, parents, and others so that they might share it with their children.
What came out of this was a profound respect for the melodies and a kind of freedom that comes from having lived with them for many years. I love them and so I felt free to play with them lovingly. I hear and feel the common ground between folk music and classical music, as have many composers, and so I felt free to build a bridge that connects them in this suite.
It was fascinating hearing this American music being learned and performed by Czech musicians.They knew Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, of course, and some of them were familiar with Home on the Range, but for the most part they were experiencing this music for the first time. They seemed to intuitively grasp the emotional essence of the music very quickly, and judging from the beautiful performances they delivered, very deeply. This speaks of the universality of music and the spiritual, emotional connection between all people.
Writing this music was a wonderful creative experience. I had the feeling that I'd really been working on the music all my life and I was finally able to let it out. It poured out of me in big sections that didn't want to be tampered with or re-written. This album feels like it was meant to be.
-- Stephen Cohn
ABOUT THE MUSICIAN:
A native of southern California, Emmy-award winning musician/composer Stephen Cohn has always been in love with music, in love with the experience of making music. "I grew up in a home where music had a special place in our life. My father wrote chamber music as a hobby,my mother was a dancer and violinist and my sister is a flutist," says Cohn.
Classically trained as a musician and composer, Cohn completed graduate work in composition and musicology at UCLA. Accomplished on multiple instruments including the piano, guitar and clarinet, he began his professional career singing, composing and writing songs for labels including Motown and Warner Brothers. This quickly led to opportunities to write title themes for TV and scores for films with stars such as Lily Tomlin, Wallace Shawn, Joanne Woodward and William Shatner. Internationally recognized for his concert stage music, Cohn’s compositions have been performed world-wide by such acclaimed musicians as the Arditti Quartet and the Chroma Quartet.
Winning an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Music" for his chamber orchestra score for the documentary film, "Dying With Dignity" encouraged Cohn to pursue his interest in studying how music can promote healing and stress reduction.
"In many ways, my music for At Peace® is a culmination of my long-standing interest in the spiritual aspects of music. There are really no formulas for creating something that's relaxing. As a composer, I look for a place inside, where, in writing something, I actually feel the experience of letting go and relaxing or of opening to a space that’s beyond thought. Maybe it’s a question of identifying that place in oneself creatively and then expressing it musically."
– Stephen Cohn
Among the hallmarks of Cohn’s music for At Peace® is his ability to enhance relaxation by offering lush, soothing compositions designed to slow the rhythms of the body and the nervous system while entertaining the listener with beautiful melodies and instruments chosen from a pan-cultural palette.
"Instruments that speak with a soft, soulful voice are the ones that I gravitate to for this kind of music. Every project has a special challenge musically which involves tapping into and weaving together my skills as a classically trained musician, my intuition, and my desire to create musical resonance and harmony with a timeless quality."
– Stephen Cohn