Home | News | Bio | Compositions | Performances | Links | Contact

Melting Pot

Full Orchestra
String Orchestra
Wind Ensemble
Solo Instrumental

Melting Pot was commissioned by Rachel Jayson for the Lexington (MA) High School Chamber Orchestra

The idiom, Melting Pot, refers to a convergence of many cultures. My ethnicity is mixed - Chinese on my mother's side and Polish/Russian Jew on my father's side. I grew up in a household where the food I ate came from this mix of cultures and one more - my maternal grandparents both emigrated from China to Jamaica and my mother grew up in Jamaica, enjoying a mix of Chinese and Jamaican food herself. This piece takes as its inspiration some of the diverse foods I ate as a child.

Lychee is a delicious fruit common in southeast Asia that also grows bountifully in south Florida where I grew up. My parents had fallen in love with it when living in Taiwan and Jamaica and I grew up always excited to eat it every June when it was in season. It is a red fruit with a very rough, almost spiky shell. Inside is a soft white fruit and most varieties have a very large seed, so a great deal of work peeling the rind usually only provides a small amount to eat, but it is a most wonderful and sweet flavor. The music of this movement contrasts the sweetness of the fruit with the roughness of the shell and seed.

Bitter Herbs is one of the plates in the traditional Jewish Passover Seder, representing the suffering of the ancient Jewish slaves under the Pharoah. The second movement calls for the strings' bow placement to create a harsh, pained sound that then moves to a more mellow tone as dissonant harmonies blend from one to the next, while the violas and eventually the cellos sing a plaintive melody. Later in the movement, a quicker and more agitated passage interrupts, but at the end, the music returns to the anguish heard in the beginning.

Rice and Peas is a dish common in Jamaica and around the Caribbean, mixing rice with kidney beans (not actual peas!) and a generous kick of spiciness. My mom would make rice and peas quite often while I was growing up, and sometimes we'd add some kielbasa to it. With my father's Polish background, this was quite fitting, but it was a completely coincidental combination. The third movement is groovy, based on a repeated rhythmic pattern set up by the basses and cellos. A singing melody is passed around the ensemble while a spicy rhythm circulates and the energy builds and builds. Pitch sliding glissandos sound like hooting and hollering as the raucous party really gets going.

Duration: ca. 15'
Grade 5

Melting Pot is available for purchase from Murphy Music Press for printed copies and directly from this website at the bottom of this page for pdfs.

Performance video coming soon. Listen to a rehearsal recording by the Lexington High School Chamber Symphony, conducted by Rachel Jayson:

III. Rice and Peas

You may download a pdf of the perusal score in case the embedded score below is difficult to see or does not display.

It appears you don't have a PDF plugin for this browser. No biggie... you can click here to download the PDF file.

Melting Pot is available in print from Murphy Music Press. You may purchase pdfs of this piece directly from Roger Zare Music below. If you need a quote for a purchase order or would like to purchase printed scores and parts, please contact me.

Melting Pot
Performing ensemble
Date(s) of performance

Copyright © by Roger Zare Music, ASCAP. All Rights Reserved.