My next composition is a commission from the Kansas State University Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble. I have decided to write for three euphoniums and three tubas which should give me a good balance between the higher and lower instruments of this family.
A few days ago, while I was out walking, I was thinking about this piece and came up with the idea of writing a 4-movement piece based on the card suits. I am not really a card player. My most recent excursion into card playing occurred when my parents moved from California to Pennsylvania to be near my wife and myself as my father's health was failing. My parents lived in a retirement community where my father played duplicate bridge once or twice a day (he was a life master). We knew he was going to miss this, so when they got settled here, I asked him to teach me how to play bridge so that we could play together. After a six week crash course, he said we are ready to go the bridge club. I was never so scared in my life! I understood bidding fairly well, but had know idea how to play the cards once the bidding was over. What was a miracle was that we were leading for almost two-thirds of the tournament and we came in 3rd or 4th. This whole experience was a special bonding time between my father and myself, and although his health was never good enough to play again, I know it gave him great pleasure. I still read the bridge column in the newspaper, although I don't play the game. The point of all this background is that cards have a special place in my heart and writing a piece of music based on the suits sounded like it would be fun to do.
After a brief internet search, I found that spades are associated with death, hearts with romance, diamonds with riches, and clubs with war. This should give me plenty to represent musically. I am thinking about an 8-9 minute piece with each movement about two minutes long and I'm calling it "Suit Suite".
Inspiration for a piece of music can come from many sources. In this case, my inspiration is something extra-musical. In other instances, I just start writing and the music suggests a title and form. I find it easier to compose when I have an extra-musical idea to represent, but the process of working with the material is similar no matter how one gets started. I'll be discussing that process once I begin the piece and will be linking to a score and MIDI performance of what I have written thus far so that the reader can experience the composition process as it occurs. Your comments and questions are always welcomed.