Gershwin, American in Paris Theme A1
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Gershwin, American in Paris Theme A1

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Gershwin, American in Paris Theme A1

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Gershwin, American in Paris Theme A1

Walking through Paris


Musical Description of Theme

Time signature: (Duple time)First measure is B natural grace note leading to staccato C eighth note, followed by staccato D eighth note (octave down), followed by tenuto E quarter noteDisjunctSecond measure is repeat of first measureThird measure same eighth note combo at beginning, but quarter note is divided into staccato E and B eighth notes



Musical Description of Theme

Fourth measure is C eighth note followed by sixteenth notes C and D and quarter note


Conjunct imitation of first measure

Fifth measure is a repeat of the


Sixth measure is a repeat of the


Repetition is reminiscent of walking

Seventh measure is four staccato sixteenth note E’s followed by staccato eighth notes E and A

Final measure is accented quarter note G slurred to quarter note F


Musical Style and Context

Gershwin’s Influences

Tin Pan Alley

Gained an understanding of popular music



Style of this theme

Grace note mimics chromatic passing tone (used often in Jazz)



However, not otherwise chromatic (mainly diatonic)

No syncopation


Function of Theme

This is a tone poem/programmatic piece

Walking theme takes you from place to place

Provides basic structure of program, focal transition point

Reoccurs often after various themes

Disjunct/jazzy qualities reaffirm idea that American is walking




Sample 1: introduction

Fairly thin texture

Theme found in three voices—oboe, first violin, and second violin

Stands out strongly above harmony lines

Texture gradually thickens, theme gives way to other melodies (link)

Experimenting with other harmonies here


Establishes the idea of walking very early in the piece, and very strongly

Sets up theme to be structural connection throughout piece


Sample 2: reprise

Follows car horn theme (A2)Found in at first oboe, first violin, and second violin (as before)Then oboe drops out, horns, flute, and piccolo come inThickens texture, makes theme strongerTexture still fairly thin—theme statement is strongStarting to introduce some interesting harmoniesFirst violin solo at beginning of theme—chromatic progressionEnhances “jazzy” feelEffect: Short mention of the theme to re-establish location, transition to next theme (link to A3, the Spanish theme)

Begin at 1:12

in Michael


Thomas version


Sample 3: transition

Brings back A1 for four measuresAscending harmonies help theme to build, lead into next lineOnce more, fairly thin texture helps theme to stand outScattered statements of theme also occur in single instrumentsBass clarinet/bassoon English horn/violaCello/bassEffect:Sets scene once again during the transitionGround the piece even through the transition with familiar melodies

Begin at 1:40 in Michael


Thomas version


Sample 4: Augmentation

Only occurs once in the piece

Fairly thick texture at this point, building excitement

More experimental harmonies and rhythms—lots of triplets moving underneath augmented theme


Augmented theme has more dramatic sound, helps create build up

Provides grounding within increasingly chaotic-sounding music


Sample 5: finale

Up to this point, has been building, building…Then suddenly texture thins (trombones, tuba drop out, as do clarinets and oboe), no more sixteenth note runsReturns to main themeEffectGrounds chaotic rising action in easily recognizable themeActs like respite from tension—texture immediately builds afterwards again

Start at 16:55