Welcome to my blog

I have created this site in order to provide performers, listeners and composers with a description of a composer's experiences with the creative process. The posts will provide discussions of the inspirations, challenges, and successes of a composer from the inception of the piece to the culmination in performance. I will provide a link to where you can see and hear the works in progress. Comments and questions are always welcomed. They will not posted unless you grant me permission.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Goulash 1st Movement finished

Yesterday, I completed the first movement. M. 87 to 103 continues the tossing back and forth of motives followed by a canonic section. The end of this section diminuendos, leading up to a grand pause before returning to the opening material. In typical gypsy form, I ornamented the melodic ideas and I filled in some harmony in the marimba part. The ending climaxes with a trill in the saxophone and technical triplet passages leading to the final cadence. The use of the gypsy scale, the 5/8 meter and unexpected rests creating syncopation, all add to the exotic flavor of this movement.

To see and hear what I've composed thus far, go to http://www.cooppress.net/goulashblog.html
The score is transposed.

Dr. B

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

1st Movement of Goulash Continued

I've been working on this movement in short spurts since my last post as I took time away from it to do another transcription for brass quintet of another one of my organ preludes. The middle section is coming along. As I said in my previous post, I wanted a thinner texture to contrast the first section. I also chose to change the meter to 2/4 and the initial tonality to f minor. The tonality doesn't stay there because this section almost serves as a development. There are new ideas, but also new treatments of earlier ideas.

It begins at 39 with an accompaniment figure of widely spaced eighth notes. At 39 & 40, it is split between the marimba and saxophone, but that is the last time this occurs. The saxophone plays two phrases of a new idea while the marimba inserts the accompaniment figure. This accompaniment figure expands and contracts its intervals and occasionally reverses direction. The third and fourth saxophone phrases use material from the opening section.

At 62, the marimba is the solo voice and the sax the accompaniment. Again both 1st and 2nd section material is used for the marimba phrases. At 75-80 a canon is used between marimba and saxophone. At 81, motifs are tossed back and forth between saxophone and marimba before becoming canonic again.

This section is getting ready to transition back to the opening material in a somewhat different order.

To see and hear what I've composed thus far, go to http://www.cooppress.hostrack.net/goulashblog.html
The score is transposed.

Dr. B

Thursday, February 21, 2008

1st movement of Goulash

I now have about a minute of the 1st movement (Chalga). The movement is starting to take shape as I envision a quieter middle section followed by a return to the opening section. Writing for two instruments is a challenge as it is difficult to vary the texture. It is almost necessary for both instruments to be playing most of the time. I am getting a variety of textures by having the marimba accompany the saxophone, the saxophone accompany the marimba, using both in imitation, and having each play by themselves. I am also trying to create variety by varying the dynamics and articulation, and in the case of the marimba, the number of mallets used simultaneously. As I move to the middle section, a change of tonal center will also create variety.

The first section is basically through-composed. After the opening 4 measure melody in the saxophone accompanied by rhythmic chords in the marimba, the melodic ideas seem to grow by themselves. For example, m. 5 & 6 in the saxophone uses the same motif as m. 1 but instead of sustaining, the idea is extended. Much of what I am doing with the ideas in this section remind me of a party game where one person starts a story and the hands it off to the next person. The next person can build on the ideas of the first person, or take the story in an entirely different direction. M. 8 in the saxophone does some of both. The first 3 beats is an elaborate version of first 3 beats of the movement. The last two beats introduce a new twist, the two sixteenth notes followed by the eighth. This new twist gets used frequently as the movement progresses. In M 9-14, the marimba has the opening idea. In m. 10, the m. 8 saxophone part which was the main melody, is now an accompaniment figure to the marimba. Imitation is used in m. 11-15 with the sax following the marimba.

M. 17 in the sax uses the m. 6 idea but now as the beginning of the phrase, instead of the end of a phrase. Triplet patterns are introduced to extend this idea. M. 20 has the marimba playing what the sax did in m. 17-19. The sax now accompanies the marimba with short notes. Originally I had a note on each beat, but after composing the marimba part at m. 28 which uses rests, I changed the sax part at m. 20 to include rests. It is now easier to realize that the marimba has the melody.

M. 24 to the end of this section uses that 2 sixteenth note eighth pattern first introduced in m. 8 and it becomes a prominent feature of this section. All this is a good example of how music can take on a life of its own. It does just repeat, but seems to morph into a reorganization of ideas or generate new ideas much in the manner of that story telling party game.

To see and hear what I've composed thus far, go to http://www.cooppress.net/goulashblog.html
The score is in concert pitch.

Dr. B

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New Piece for Saxophone and Percussion

It feels good to be composing again! After a break of a few months for vacation, arrangements and performances, I am now working on a piece for Jason Laczkoski, saxophone and Andrea Verdoorn, percussion. Both are at the University of Iowa with Jason working on his doctorate and Andrea completing her Bachelors in percussion performance. They wanted a piece based on Gypsy music, so after some internet searching. I decided on a three movement piece called "Goulash". The movements are called "Chalga", "Flamenco", and "Czardas".

The title is a Hungarian stew but the word is often used to indicate a varied mixture. I discovered that Gypsy music is indeed a varied mixture. There is a wonderful article about Gypsy music at http://people.unt.edu/jw0109/misc/gypsy.htm for anyone interested in finding out about its origins and development. The Chalga is a form of Bulgarian music a mixture of Balkan folk, incorporating a blend of Arabic, Turkish, Greek, and Roma (Gypsy) influences, as well as motifs from Balkan traditional music, even flamenco and klezmer music. It is known for repeating musical themes and dance rhythms and its style of dancing called kyuchek in Bulgarian. Many chalga hits were Greek or Turkish, covered by Bulgarian singers, often in more complex musical arrangements. The word chalga originates in the Turkish word çalgı (pronounced "chal-guh"), which means "playing" or "music". Indeed, the movement is derived from the art of the chalgadzhia (derived from the Turkish çalgıcı meaning "musician"), a type of musician who could play virtually any type of music, but added his own distinctive beat or rhythm to the song. (source - Wikipedia)

I decided to write my Chalga in 5/8. I am using a scale associated with Gypsy music which is in G minor G,A,Bb,C#,D,Eb,F#,G. There also a lot of ornamentation in Gypsy music. I have written about 16 measures using the instrumentation of Soprano Saxophone and Marimba. It will be fun to see where this takes me.

To see and hear what I've composed thus far, go to http://www.cooppress.net/goulashblog.html

Dr. B

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Premiere of "Legacy" 2/16/08

Last night was the premiere of my composition "Legacy" by the Washington Sinfonietta, Rufus Jones, Musical Director and Conductor. The premiere was both exhilarating and disappointing. The Washington Sinfonietta is a very fine non-paid orchestra in the DC area. I was very impressed with the quality of the musicianship and the overall sound of the orchestra. It was thrill to have them do "Legacy" and most of came off very well and was well received (standing ovation). My disappointed stems from the fact that all the intricate parts were not always in the right place. Every note of my music has a purpose and when some things are not where they should be, I feel like there are gaps in the overall presentation. I realize that it is very difficult to pull a brand new piece together on 4 or 5 rehearsals. I am pleased with what the orchestra accomplished. But I couldn't help feeling that it could have been even better if they had more time with the piece and knew it better. Some things that worked during the dress rehearsal didn't work in the performance. I imagine nerves of having the composer present contributed.

So this is an example of what I think all composers face. Having high artistic standards is a given for performers and composers. The reality of rehearsal time restrictions and performance pressures create a sense of disappointment when those high artistic goals are not quite achieved. The months of creating the piece and the year of anticipation for that performance are now in the past. Now the task lays before me of finding future performances for what I consider is my best composition to date. Both the rehearsal and concert where recorded and once I get the recordings, I hope to be able put together a decent demo recording in order to entice other orchestras to do the piece.

My sincere thanks goes to the members and conductor of the Washington Sinfonietta for their premiere of my composition. I enjoyed working with them and I hope the opportunity to work together will occur again soon.

Dr. B.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I'm back after a bout with the flu

My composing has taken a back seat again as I have been battling 102 fever for over a week. Before then, however, I did take one of my recent organ compositions "Chorale Prelude on Christ, The Lord, Is Risen Today" and transcribe it for brass quintet. Organ works transcribe fairly easily for brass and this was no exception. All I did was lower the key a whole step to help it fit into a more comfortable brass range. It was fairly clear which parts to give which instruments. I think I had in mind a possible transcription when I wrote the organ prelude.

This particular piece could also be used as a postlude. It goes far beyond an arrangement of a hymn tune. It uses phrases and motives from the hymn in unique ways. I won't say much about how this was composed, but offer it as an example of how a composer can be inventive with traditional material.

To see and hear this composition, go to http://www.cooppress.net/page2/page29/page45/page45.html

On Saturday Feb. 2, I was the narrator for a performance of my "Gettysburg Portrait" by the Lancaster/Lebanon County Orchestra, Duane Botterbusch, Conductor. Duane and the 120 students did a wonderful job! It was one of these festivals where they rehearse all day and perform at night. It took them a little while to become confident with all the independent entrances and the evenings performance was even better than the rehearsals. The piece was also well received by the audience. I really enjoy these opportunities to interact with students and expose both them and the audience to contemporary art music.

I’d like to invite anyone in the D.C. area to the premiere of my composition, “Legacy” by the Washington Sinfonietta, Rufus Jones, Conductor. The concert is Saturday Feb. 16th at 3:00 PM at the National City Christian Church, 5 Thomas Circle NW and also includes works by Copland, Still and Barber.

“Legacy” is a three-movement composition that makes social commentary on the issue of global warming. The three movements are titled:

I. Conflicts
II. Consequences
III. Sacrifice and Compromise

I'll be talking at Georgetown University and at one of the DC Public Schools as part of this project, so it should be and exciting week.

I'm hoping to get back to composing after this premiere.

Dr. B