Street Song for Brass Quintet




Michael Tilson Thomas (b. 1944)

Composer Information

Michael Tilson Thomas is acclaimed internationally as a conductor as well as for his impressive abilities as a pianist. He is the music director of the San Francisco Symphony, founder and artistic director of the New World Symphony, and conductor laureate of the London Symphony. Tilson Thomas studied composition and conducting with Ingolf Dahl, piano with John Crown and harpsichord with Alice Ehlers at the University of Southern California. Mr. Tilson Thomas has won 11 Grammy awards for his recordings. His discography includes more than 120 discs. In 2008, he received the Peabody Award for his radio series for SFS Media, The MTT Files. In 2010, President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States.


G. Schirmer, Inc.





Ranking Position



Brass Outings by Gaudete Brass Quintet: Gaudete Brass Quintet, 2006.

Street Song by Center City Brass Quintet: Chandos, 2004.


Types of Instruments/Mutes

2 C trumpets, Horn, Trombone and Tuba. Trumpets require cup mute, trombone needs a mute and a cup mute.

Final Considerations

Commissioned for Empire Brass in 1988, and dedicated to his father, Ted. This is a composition that contains both intellectual and technical obstacles for all involved. Professional-level performers will be rewarded for their efforts, while lesser ability players might simply be frustrated.


Michael Tilson Thomas provided this commentary about his Street Song: Street Song is a work in three contiguous parts and interweaving of three songs. The first song opens with a jagged downward scale suspending in the air a sweetly dissonant harmony that very slowly resolves. This moment of resolution is followed by responses of various kinds. The harmonies move between the world of the Middle Ages and the present, between East and West, and always, of course, from the perspective of 20th-century America. Overall the movement is about starting and stopping, the moments of suspension always leading somewhere else. The second song is introduced by a yodel-like horn solo. It is followed by a simple trumpet duet. It is folk-like in character and also cadences with suspended moments of slowly resolving dissonance. The third song is really more of a dance. It begins when a trombone slides a step higher, bringing the work into the key of F sharp and into a jazzier swing. The harmonies here are the stacked-up moments of suspension from the first two parts of the piece. By now I hope these “dissonant” sounds actually begin to sound “consonant.” There is a resolution, but it is in the world of a musician who, after many after-hours gigs, greets the dawn.