Blackwood's Symphony No. 5 feels slightly more traditional than some other modern music. Blackwood's early music was not extremely unconventional until he began to experiment with microtonality in 1980 (Blackwood 1991). This particular work is influenced by his experience as a pianist and was written in a manner that Blackwood likes to imagine Sibeleus would have written one of his symphonies had he experimented with modern techniques (Blackwood 1991).
The movements of Blackwood's Symphony No. 5 maintain a traditional sense in terms of form. For instance, the first movement is in sonata allegro form and the third movement is a scherzo. The first movement is written in a modal B minor. One can here occasional impressionistic passages with tonal ambiguity throughout. Musical motives are developed throughout the work, an important motive heard in the descending trumpet melody about one minute into the recording. Moments of more traditional tonality exist in the french horn part in the second section of the first movement. This use of traditional tonality would place this particular composition more in postmodernism. Use of color is important, with different combinations of instruments used to give new timbres. Rhythm remains important throughout with very complex, interlocking parts. This use of color and rhythm are typical in the modern period.
Some interesting comparisons arise between Takemitsu's "Litany" and Blackwood's Symphony No. 5. Both use color frequently, particular within harmonies.
Takemitsu uses more "modern" notation than Blackwood. Takemitsu's notation is interesting because of the cross staff beaming as well as how ties are used between notes (Pentecost 2014.)
Rhythmically, Tekemitsu's "Litany" does not feel as complex or quickly shifting, but is given more "space."
I was very interested in Easley Blackwood's music and was excited to have the opportunity to study his music. It has a very postmodern feel to it, which interested me. My trumpet teacher throughout high school premiered a trumpet sonata for him my senior year of high school, sparking my interest in his compositions.
"Easley Blackwood, Symphony No. 5." YouTube video, 8:08. Posted by "bartje11," upload October 21, 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ois7sj2pv8Y
Blackwood, E. (1990). [Liner notes]. In Easley Blackwoos [CD]. Chicago, Illinois: Cedille Records
Blackwood, E. (1990). Symphony No. 5. [Musical Score]
Pentecost, Zackary. (2014). "Tekemitsu: Litany." [Wiki]