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American Plain


by

Tom Atwood

 Genre: Classical

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Description
This is the finished version of an orchestral piece that I began writing around the Fourth of July, 2005. It was inspired partly by congregational singing of the National Hymn that weekend at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edwardsville, Illinois.

That wonderful, stirring hymn opens with a true fanfare, and begins with this familiar verse:

"God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
Our grateful songs before thy throne arise."

It is possible to experience a deep love of country, even in the midst of dissatisfaction with government and personal feelings of cultural alienation. However, that kind of love and alienation produce tension, which is hopefully present in the opening movement, and throughout “American Plain.” But this is not a political piece at all. It is really a landscape. In fact, more than congregational singing, or love of country, this was inspired by the broad, almost endless landscape of the American Plain. I also chose that title because I believe this “symphony” is very plain. In fact, its composer is, too. As “American plain” as they come. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing?


American Plain (runs: 17:52)

I. Fanfare
II. Kansas
III. Progress & Destruction
IV. Hymn

Thanks to Mystified, who convinced me to keep expanding this beyond the original fanfare. Thanks also to pgreenstone, Alimar, MidiOrleans and Cameron for their ears and advice along the way. Thanks to Simon for upping the submission limit for mp3's to 30 mbs (this was 26 mb). Some of these movements were posted previously on MJ under different titles.

Finished!


Photo by Tom Atwood
near Shady Bend, Kansas
June 2004
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

***In response to a question from Mungo about the final movement (Hymn), here is an excerpt from the song description when Hymn was originally posted separately on MacJams a couple of months ago:

Most of "Hymn" is original, performed by a virtual brass choir, but you will also hear woodwind variations on two actual hymns. The first, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," is one that I sang growing up in the First Baptist Church of Du Quoin, Illinois. The second, "Near the Cross," is another popular hymn I found in a tattered compilation, "The Modern Hymnal," which belonged to my grandmother. My father was the choir director at our church. Hymns are probably the single most powerful musical influence in my life. I believe they are still part of the fabric of America, although that fabric admittedly is growing worn and frayed, like my grandmother's "Modern Hymnal."

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Song Stats
Hits: 5476
Comments: 35
Fans: 14
Plays: 514
Downloads: 220
Votes: 16
Uploaded: Nov 03, 2005 - 11:59:48 AM
Last Updated: Nov 30, 2005 - 10:01:33 PM Last Played: Apr 02, 2017 - 01:01:27 PM
Song License
Creative Commons License:
Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial

Creative Commons

Song Actions
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Hardware:
Casio Privia PX-300
G5
Software:
GB2
Jampack 4: Symphony Orchestra
Comments
Mystified said 4225 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
Tis the gift to be simple....
There is definitely something to be said for plainness--and it's not a bad thing at all.
In this case, the unfettered 'plain' of this composition allows for an unobstructed view.

A beautiful vista.

I'm glad you posted this gift, and are so free....and yes, so 'plain' with your extraordinary musical talent.
Check out my latest song called Child of Yesterday
Tom Atwood said 4225 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
Tis the gift to be simple....
Thanks for the comments, Cat. And thanks for gently nudging me. Right now
this piece is better than good: it is done!
Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
cjhoose said 4225 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
heart land
Good to hear it all together.

Good that your love for the land eclipses any frustration with
government. :)
Check out my latest song called Vapor
Tom Atwood said 4225 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
heart land
Thanks cj. Glad to hear from someone who is in the middle of the plain. Iowa,
another vast, open state.
Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
drakonis said 4225 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
A vast piece
This is broad and sweeping... I loved to watch it evolve and take shape.
This is quite an achievement, and although some parts are a bit
"modern" for my wiring, overall it is a giant piece for a giant diverse
country, and I think you capture the grandeur very well. Your
orchestration/instrumentation is wonderful, use of dynamics and
meter are great, I can even hear many details you put in, manually
tweaking french horn note volumes etc. to make it sound as realistic as
you could. I am so happy this did not disappear with your hard disk
meltdown! Yay for backups! What an incredible amount of thought
and work you've put into this, and it really shows. Fantastic, I've run
out of superlatives!
ttfn,
Drakonis
Check out my latest song called Miwok
Tom Atwood said 4225 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
A vast piece
I did get a sick feelingafter the HD crash when the Apple guy told me all my
files were possibly 'corrupted.' But fortunately, the GB files survived. Learned
a lesson about backing up. Thanks Eduard!
Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
jgurner said 4225 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
Beautiful scenery
From the power percussion in the first movement to the beautifully
moving final notes, this piece is obviously a labor of love. It not only
shows your love for making music, but for this country, despite any
potholes (or sink holes) we might hit along the way. The opening
movement really sets the tone for the whole piece - energy and beauty.

I've never seen the sweeping, open fields of Kansas, but if the second
movement is any indication, the very sight of them must make the
heart swell. Beautiful clarinet. My older brother is/was a wonderful
clarinet player back in the day and I can just imagine him playing the
part.

Then from the sweeping beauty to the frenetic and very expresive
Progress and Destruction. I know some French horn players who would
die for something like that.

I could see the beautiful plains, the majestic forrests and the cold
lonely mountians passing by during the hymn. Stirring and beautiful.

This is a wonderfully moving and exciting piece. (I've listened to it
twice already.) You've done incredible work in not only composing it,
but painstakingly crafting it in GB. You are a man of many talents,
Tom. I can't wait until the MacJams Symphony Orchestra plays this for
the finale of MacJamstock. I call dibs on third French horn. :)
Check out my latest song called 13
Tom Atwood said 4225 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
Beautiful scenery
Joseph, I appreciate your careful listen to this lengthy piece. (You get a bonus
award for listening twice!) Kansas often gets a bad rap as a long state you
have to drive through to get to Colorado. Our family has made that trip many
times and, while the kids still find Kansas boring, I love the subtle beauty of
the Midwest, beauty that only requires some seeking and an open heart. I am
glad you were able to "see" it in this piece. Thanks again for the kind words.
Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
MidiOrleans said 4225 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
Congratulations!
Thank you Tom for this refreshing music.
This composition you should be proud of!
"Simple pleasures are the best"

10s....
Check out my latest song called Vieux Carré Prelude
Tom Atwood said 4225 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
Congratulations!
Scotty, thank you. As you and I have discussed before, this is something that
was difficult to even imagine just a few years ago, composing and recording
'orchestral' music in a basement. More than anything, though, I am glad that
you survived Katrina, and are able to resume writing (and listening) to music.
Thanks again!
Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
aclarke said 4225 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
Fantastic
Amazing and beautiful.
Check out my latest song called Right on Time 2014- feat. David McNair
Tom Atwood said 4224 days ago (November 4th, 2005)
Fantastic
Thanks, AC, for taking the time to listen and comment.
Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
Stun Nutz said 4224 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
thoroughly deep
...and absorbing work here. The opening section really grabs you
right off the bat. You know what's crazy, a lot of this reminds me
of an untitled tune I had posted. I recently took it down because I
wasn't totally happy with it, but it had a lot of the mood and tone
that this piece has. What you have created here is much more
subtle, beautiful, and fully realized than my track was, though.
Great piece!
Check out my latest song called stagnation
Tom Atwood said 4224 days ago (November 4th, 2005)
thoroughly deep
I'd be interetsed in hearing that piece of yours, Eric. Although maybe I did if
you posted it and then pulled it down. I try not to miss a Stun Nutz piece.
Thanks again!

Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
Jim Bouchard said 4224 days ago (November 3rd, 2005)
very important
It's very important to listen to the Quicktime stream on this and not the
Flash player! But for interesting fun play both at the same time! I will
properly comment later when I have more time. I downloaded this to
listen more closely.
Check out my latest song called Big Yawn (Apogee One mic demo)
Tom Atwood said 4224 days ago (November 4th, 2005)
very important
Whoa! The Flash version is really creepy. Maybe it can't handle a file this
large? Very slow. Thanks for pointing that out. And thanks for downloading
this, Jim.
Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
Tadashi Togawa said 4224 days ago (November 4th, 2005)
Real pleasure of music
Fusion of wind instrument and percussion instrument.
Tension and easing.
Wonderful balance.

Check out my latest song called Mexican taste
babybrunette27 said 4224 days ago (November 4th, 2005)
hey
really
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babybrunette27 said 4224 days ago (November 4th, 2005)
hey
really
nice
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babybrunette27 said 4224 days ago (November 4th, 2005)
hey
really
nice
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K.I.S.KISMET said 4223 days ago (November 4th, 2005)
Perfect for a soundtrack
it kind of reminds me of marching band days too. I really, really, love the drums! Outstanding, yet complimentary contrasts/transistions. I could go on and on. You left me smiling and a show going on in my head :) Meticulous work, your time paid off.
Check out my latest song called Mad Lands
Tom Atwood said 4223 days ago (November 5th, 2005)
Perfect for a soundtrack
Very interesting that this reminds you of your marching band days. My son is
in a marching band, and I thought about offering the 1st movement to his
band director, or even trying to write an entire "show" for marching band.
Thanks for listening Krystal, and for your comments.
Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
said 4223 days ago (November 5th, 2005)
:)
Percolating traffic. Wonderful percussion. Quiet. Plaintive. Pastoral. Open.
Dignified. Purposeful. Then spritely. Almost revolving. At ease again. But
not for long. sh-shake BOOM. Interesting use of sterep space. Fastly
revolving. Boom. I like your use of space. Churchly. (ah, the movement is
titled hymn.) Like a gospel tune slowed down. (Was that part of Old
Rugged Cross that just went by?). Over too soon?
Bravo.
Tom Atwood said 4223 days ago (November 5th, 2005)
:)
Thanks, Mungo. I probably should have put more of an explanation about the
last movement in the song description. There was more detail when I
originally posted that final movement ("Hymn") on MJ separately. "Hymn" is a
combination of several hymns, real and original. It opens with a an echo from
a 16th Century Easter hymn, "Victory," by Giovanni da Palestrina, then an
arrangement of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," and the melody from "Near
the Cross." (Maybe that's where you heard something like "The Old Rugged
Cross"?) Thanks for listening and for your 'stream-of-consciousness'
comments. I really enjoyed them.
Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
Peter Greenstone said 4222 days ago (November 6th, 2005)
A real treasure
Tom, this is a real treasure. I'm so happy you got this all done and
together. This is truly masterful. You have captured a great complexity
of a deceptively "plain" thing. Through it all, the ups and downs, the
agression and the peace, in the end I am left with a full and warmed
heart.

Beautiful photo, too.
Check out my latest song called Iridium Flare (2013 Re-Release)
Tom Atwood said 4222 days ago (November 6th, 2005)
A real treasure
Thanks, Peter. I am glad this is 'done,' too. The photo was taken on one of
those family trips through Kansas. We pulled over and made the kids stand in
a wheat field.
Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
djteks said 4221 days ago (November 7th, 2005)
Wow!
This is a very moving peice. I enjoy the dichotomy that exists between the hard drums and soft melodies. It forms a bit of a synthetic, yet powerfull and moving harmony. I'm quite impressed with this. It's a very calming and powerfully peaceful piece, one which I very much enjoy.
Check out my latest song called Know Thyself
Tom Atwood said 4200 days ago (November 28th, 2005)
Wow!
Thanks for stopping by djyeks. I appreciate it.

---
<a href="http://thelostrecords.com/atwood-artist.html">my latest cd: songs from the american plain</a>
Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
Macaudion said 4220 days ago (November 8th, 2005)
Exserts taken from "MJ's Dream Blog"
Seriously: Last night, I dreamt that Tom Atfwood had a camp for kids
and it was about dealing with your fears. One of the camp excercises
was to bungee jump and I amongst all of the kids was standing there
just after he had announced that this was the excercise. For some odd
reason I said that I would jump first. I remember somewhere between
now and the dream that I had chosen to jump first, not because I was
brave and all that, but that I wanted to jump first so that I wouldn't
have to stand there watching everyone jump while my fears had a
chance to rise and get out of hand. Well, I jumped and fell into this big
orchestra pit of which Tom was conducting. Apparently, I had jumped
off cue and he made me go back to jump again, but this time, he
wanted me to jump off backwards. I woke up and decided that
regardless of how long and elequent his new song submission is, "my
words won't and don't have to match it and that I should comment
reagardless". I woke up... I do remember being one of the first to listen
to it when he posted and thought wow, this is too amazing for my
words and that I'm going to have to commit an afternoon of study just
to comment... Needless to say, all of the other kids have already
jumped before me... Yes, things are out of hand now...

Now, I'm heading over to his tune to comment. Now this is just plan
silly, but it's true...

Dion

P.S. BTW, - I had listened to his American Plain on the way to sleep last
night and it was a the perfect lallaby... :?
Check out my latest song called Pavel
Tom Atwood said 4200 days ago (November 28th, 2005)
Exserts taken from "MJ's Dream Blog"
Thanks for the enjoyable comments, Dion. Sorry for the uneasy sleep.

---
<a href="http://thelostrecords.com/atwood-artist.html">my latest cd: songs from the american plain (available on the lost records™ label)</a>
Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
John Stebbe said 4220 days ago (November 8th, 2005)
Great work
I hear a marching band show in those percussion parts! I can just see
those guys in uniforms doing all those precisely choreographed
motions.

I saw a Casio Privia piano like yours at Sam's Club. I was impressed. It
looks like a very nice board.

You've done a lot of great things with the orchestral sounds in JP4. I
really like the clarinet and harp in the second movement.

You must have spend an incredible amount of time creating this fine
work.
Check out my latest song called Midwest States Song
sos said 4219 days ago (November 9th, 2005)
Wy to go
More experimental than classic IMO.
Mcboy said 4218 days ago (November 10th, 2005)
nothing quite like
rhythmic/melodic orchestral music.......like a juxtaposition of primal
human existance and modern sensibilties.........its a very deep piece of
music....the change of dynamics through the sections gives this a true
orchestral disposition....well put together in both thought and musical
elaboration!......
Check out my latest song called Bluesphemy (MJRF 2010)
composerclark said 4111 days ago (February 25th, 2006)
A tremendous achievement! BRAVO!
Tom, thanks for pointing me to this.

This is work of large vision, tremendous ambition. I think that's great;
composers should think big, IMO. You have a great ear for colour, and
you know how to capture a mood perfectly. Each movement tells a
different story. You've managed to capture an orchestral sound that,
because of its debt to the late, great Aaron Copland, is immediately
identifiable as "American."

Here's my constructive criticism, though, which I hope you will take as
a friendly suggestion, and disregard if you disagree: As you know, I
compose/teach composition for a living, and while you have a better
natural ear for pacing, colour, and mood-setting than most of the
students I have taught, you might consider, if the idea appeals to you,
trying to write something with a greater sense of growth within a single
movement; I'm talking about a single movement that might be 10-15
minutes long, with key changes, moments of harmonic stability,
moments of harmonic instability, thematic development, thematic
transformation... the whole nine yards!

Now, you may not wish to even contemplate something like this,
because you are a master of what you do, which is to paint a picture
with your music with great skill, refinement, and beauty.

Tom, I am thrilled that something this ambitious and good is here at
MJ's. Bless you for writing it, and sharing it with the community. Sorry
it took so long for me to listen to it, but for me it was well worth the
wait. All tens for sure; no doubt about it.
Check out my latest song called A Little Song About Our Mom
Tom Atwood said 4110 days ago (February 25th, 2006)
A tremendous achievement! BRAVO!
Thanks Clark for listening to this "old" piece of mine, and for your kind
words. I am hearing the message from you again about a longer, more
complex movement. I believe for me to do that will take a different
"approach," but one that might be worth exploring. Mainly, it will take more
thought, time, energy, and perhaps more skill, foresight and talent than I
have! But I will put that on my list. Thanks for the suggestion, and for
pushing it. Keep pushing!

Tom


---
<a href="http://thelostrecords.com/atwood-artist.html">american plain cd</a>
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Check out my latest song called Vanishing Pezzicato
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I guess I could be a 'poster child' for MacJams. I joined the site on New Year's Eve 2004, after several years of not making much music at all. A long dry spell. Since then, I have posted more than 50 songs here, collaborated with some wonderful arti... [see more]

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