Robert Sheldon (b. 1954) is an American composer primarily of works for wind band. He is also a conductor and educator who has taught in the public schools of Florida and Illinois and at several universities. His music is played around the world, and he appears as guest conductor of honor bands and clinics across the United States. He has also been a leading contributor to several popular instrumental method books. He is currently the Director of Concert Band Publications for Alfred Music.
From the score of 2005’s Metroplex:
Metroplex: Three Postcards from Manhattan is Robert Sheldon’s second commission by the Normal Community West High School Band of Normal, Illinois (Lisa Preston, director). Their first collaboration, A Longford Legend, was written in 1995 during the school’s opening year. Metroplex was penned for the school’s spring 2005 performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
A music portrait of Manhattan’s cityscape, Metroplex opens with a vision of the New York City skyline, evoking looming buildings and concrete canyons. From there, the melody travels to the heart of an urban jazz scene, characteristic of the city’s famous night clubs. Finally, the piece takes us on a wild taxi ride through the heavy traffic of a bustling metropolis. The skyline is seen once more as we leave Manhattan, hopefully to return again soon.
Here it is in live performance:
In each section of the piece, I hear strong references to other famous city music. It starts out as William Schuman’s George Washington Bridge:
Then moves to Earl Hagen’s Harlem Nocturne:
Before ending up in something like the fast bits of Gershwin’s An American in Paris:
That’s not to say that Sheldon stole material from any of these. Rather, like any good composer, he is using existing cultural references that we all understand in a new way to create an experience that we will all share and recognize.