"For me, music is a connection to the Divine," composer David Stern said.
Stern is the winner of the Tehachapi Symphony Orchestra's composition competition, which focuses on new music by California composers. The TSO will perform the world premier of the work, a tone poem for orchestra titled "The Golden Thread," on Sunday.
Stern explained that the idea of a "golden thread" extends back to ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Pythagoras, who argued that there is an order and harmony in the universe that is also reflected in the soul, in philosophy, in nature, and realized through reason and virtue.
The golden thread is that connection between the soul and that divine, cosmic source. That is a lofty notion to be expressed through music, but Stern feels that music is the perfect vehicle to communicate such an idea.
"(Plato) said that the soul exists in harmony with the universe, and that music brings that harmony," Stern said.
Stern said Pythagoras believed music possessed a healing quality.
"Pythagoras noted that when people heard music they felt healing," Stern said.
It's this unifying, healing character of music that Stern exploits in his works, which include orchestral pieces, vocal works and music for film and television. He noted that some music, especially loud, dissonant and aggressive music, can agitate, even create division. Stern said his goal is write music that heals, and brings harmony to the inner self, as well as among people.
"I'm grateful that I can do that in my work," Stern said. "Part of the composer's job is to recognize beauty when he happens to come upon it."
The TSO Composer Competition is funded by a grant from The Virginia and Alfred Harrell Foundation.
After the premier of "The Golden Thread," the orchestra will perform the Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major by Mozart, featuring soloist Lorenz Gamma. Gamma, a native of Switzerland, is a full-time instructor of violin at Cal State Northridge and is an active soloist and recitalist. While still in Switzerland, Gamma was co-leader of the Amar String Quartet, performing throughout Europe.
The second half of the concert will be dedicated to performing the Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major by Beethoven.
The Tehachapi Symphony Orchestra is entering its 20th year of performing. Directed by Dr. David Newby, the TSO is entirely funded by donations and fund-raising activities. All concerts are free to the public.