A native of St. Joseph, Michigan, James Lee III (born 1975) has studied composition with Michael Daugherty, William Bolcom, Bright Sheng, Betsy Jolas, Susan Botti, Erik Santos, and James Aikman. As a composition fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in the summer of 2002, he studied composing with Osvaldo Golijov, Michael Gandolfi, Steven Mackey and Kaija Saariaho and conducting with Stefan Asbury.
James Lee III
Notes from the Composer
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
For the Former Things are Passed Away
Performed by Monument Piano Trio and Analog Ensemble.
Scenes Upon Eternity’s Edge is one work in a series of compositions in which I draw my source of inspiration from the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation. For the former things are passed away is inspired by Revelation 18:22–24 and Revelation 7:16–17. The music here portrays the peace of heaven and the new earth. There will be no more crying, hunger, thirst, or death. The music for the most part is tranquil with passages in the higher registers of the piano. At certain points in the movement there are reminiscences of the former struggle. There is also a sense of sadness, yet an unfolding happiness as “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” The music continues to climb to the heights of bliss in paradise as it fades away into eternity.
I Must Survive!
Performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; conducted by Leonard Slatkin
A Different Soldier’s Tale is a four-movement work for orchestra loosely based on stories that my grandfather James Lee Sr. told me about his involvement in World War II. This work is a commentary on his experience on various night patrols as a corporal, his fight for survival, his and other African-American soldiers’ near execution by Nazi soldiers, and the victory celebration back at home in Selma, Alabama. The second movement, “I Must Survive,” is a tour de force of energy. My grandfather used to tell me that his goal when fighting in World War II was survival. There are huge vertical sonorities in the brass, screaming strings, machine-gun firings in the trumpets and percussion, sirens sounding the alarm for a bombing raid, and much more. All of the action culminates in a passage for low strings and a snare drum without the snares. This music is supposed to evoke the idea of an impending execution of African-American soldiers by the Nazis. The suspense lingers until the strings scream and plead for the lives of those soldiers. The music begins to build up again until the movement ends in an explosion of sound.