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Arranging Rhapsody in Maize & Blue — Composer Michael Schachter

U-M Composition-Theory Student Michael Schachter

U-M Composition Student Michael Schachter

Inspired by the improvisations of U-M jazz piano major Gil Chapman (see “Flash of Gershwin” in the Listen gallery), we asked U-M SMTD Comp-Theory Ph.D. student Michael Schachter to create a musical weave of George Gershwin’s iconic Rhapsody in Blue with the University of Michigan’s own theme — our fight song “The Victors.” Michael took up the challenge with skill, artistry and passion, as he reported to me via email:

“I’ve been a big George Gershwin fan as long as I can remember.  His “Three Preludes for Piano” were my first entrée into classical music, and his perhaps unmatched ability to weave stylistically diverse materials into a natural, coherent artistic voice continues to inspire me in my own composition.  When I was asked by the University to write a score that somehow combined Rhapsody in Blue and “Hail to the Victors,” I think my first reaction was a gleeful giggle.  Mischief with Gershwin’s materials as motivic play-doh?  Yes please!!

DMA clarinet student Jason Paige works with videographer Bob Berg

DMA clarinet student Jason Paige works with videographer Bob Berg

“In its initial conception, my idea was to start out more or less in the world of Gershwin and let “Hail to the Victors” slowly and subtly creep into the fabric of the Rhapsody, eventually subsuming its melodic material.  But given the length constraints of the video, my visions of grandeur had to come back to earth a little bit.  We settled on a version that would bounce Rhapsody and “Hail to the Victors” off one another like Hegelian dialectical partners, each proclaiming its identity clearly at the beginning and then, through their interaction, reaching a synthesis that transcends either part (with a dash of wishful thinking on my part, of course, in terms of aesthetic merit).

“I want to especially thank the administrators and performers who volunteered their time and made this project come together.  The finished product you see and hear benefited from the skill and care of a lot of talented individuals!

Thanks too to the Gershwin Family for bringing this new partnership to our school. If this musical challenge was any indication, I know that bringing students together with the artistry of the Gershwins will be an inspiration to us all.”

To see the full video featuring student performers and the University’s beautiful Hill Auditorium, go to the University of Michigan YouTube channel here…