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Composer's Notebook: Ben Goldberg

I’m thrilled to be joining Symphony Number One in my new role as Composer-In-Residence for the 2017-2018 season. I’ve admired their mission since their inception, and it’s great to be aboard. I would like to thank Jordan Randall Smith and the administrative team for this significant opportunity. We have a lot of great projects in the works and I’m looking forward to creating some memorable musical experiences in the coming year.

Music Director Jordan Randall Smith and Composer-in-Residence Ben Goldberg

Music Director Jordan Randall Smith and Composer-in-Residence Ben Goldberg

My first work for this season is Cornerstone, based on the contents of the 1815 time capsule discovered inside the cornerstone of the original Washington Monument in Mount Vernon, Baltimore. The piece begins with an introduction depicting the discovery and opening of the cornerstone, which revealed a beautifully carved panel of the stonemasons and stone carvers. The work continues by telling the stories of the 3 glass jars found inside the cornerstone.

Jar 1 contained items representing the likeness of Washington including an embossed miniature profile of Washington, a book wrapped in paper titled "Washington's Legacy", coins, and medals.


Symphony Number One returns on August 23 to Mount Vernon Place for "Summer in the Squares: Symphony Number One"

Attached to the outside of Jar 2 was a newspaper folded open to the Declaration of Independence. To symbolize the finding I included quotes from my work "Declaration" based on this historic text. This section represents the colonist's struggle for independence. It is composed in the tonal center of C for Edward Coale who likely assembled the jar. Inside the jar was a Bible printed in tiny "diamond type." I represent this with touch 4th harmonics in the violin, which are notated as diamond note heads. The music of this section depicts the Bible, its tiny size, and the advances in technology that allowed them to put an entire book in a jar.

The final jar contained a newspaper with a detailed account of the laying of the cornerstone. I wanted to capture the grandness and joy of the event, which included an estimated 25,000-30,000 people in attendance. The account stated, "The evening sky was beautiful and bespangled by rockets…" A band performed at the ceremony, so I intended the end of the piece to be somewhat reminiscent of patriotic band music, but in a more modern context.

You can hear a MIDI realization of my piece below.

I’ll be in attendance for the premiere of Cornerstone on August 23 at Mount Vernon Place, which is the site of the Washington Monument. I greatly value interacting with audience members at my performances, so please come up and say hello!



Ben Goldberg

Ben Goldberg is a New York-based composer who has received awards for his concert music, film music, and academic achievements. A storyteller though music, his compositions often use programmatic elements to communicate to the listener. Ensembles that have performed his works include the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Central Ohio Symphony, Reno Philharmonic Youth Strings Symphonia, and Susanville Symphony. His composition Reconnecting, scored for drum circle and orchestra, has been featured in Symphony magazine, and at presentations for The League of American Orchestras and Percussive Arts Society national conferences. He was the winner of the 2013 Susanville Symphony Composition Competition, American Composers Category, and selected as the only orchestral Composer Fellow for the 2015 UC Davis Music and Words festival and Composition Workshop. Goldberg was a finalist for Symphony Number One’s 2015 call for scores and commissioned to compose a new work, which was performed at their Light City Baltimore concert. He was one of three composers selected for the Lexington Philharmonic’s 2016 New Music Experiment, where members of the orchestra and the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras performed his composition Declaration. He received an Honorable Mention for the 2016 American Prize in Composition (Orchestra division) for Reconnecting. His composition American Frontier was selected as the winner of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s 2017 Audience of the Future composition contest. 


Goldberg’s music has been featured internationally in films, television programs, podcasts, video game apps, and advertisements. His four feature-length film scores include Broadway’s Finest which earned him best original score honors at the 2012 Long Island International Film Expo. His music has been broadcasted in over thirty countries and heard on Animal Planet, CBS, FOX, NBC, HBO, The History Channel, Tokyo Broadcasting System, and children’s home videos.


Goldberg studied composition at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree in film composition. He was the recipient of the school’s Film Scoring Achievement Award.


Ben can be contacted directly at: ben@bengoldbergmusic.com

Symphony Number One is Baltimore's Newes Chamber Orchestra, devoted to substantial works by emerging composers.