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.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Grass Roots Ending Revised

I played Grass Roots for my wife yesterday and she had some suggestions for a better ending. She felt that after the tuba flourish near the end that the last measures were an anti-climax. I had to agree with her and after about an hour of trying different things, I felt that I came up with a stronger ending. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts as well.

This new ending incorporates the syncopated rhythm introduced at the Majestic section at measure 79 and also ties things together harmonically by borrowing chords from the modes used in this final section.

To see and hear what I have composed thus far, go to http://www.cooppress.hostrack.net/grass_roots_blog.html
Dr. B

Friday, December 18, 2009

Arizona Centennial Commission

I just received word that I won the Arizona Centennial Commission's Composition Commission to write a new band composition to celebrate Arizona's 100th Anniversary in 2012. The piece is to made available to high schools, colleges/universities, community bands, and professional/semi-professional ensembles throughout the state, so I should get many performances. In addition, I will receive $5,000! I was selected out of the many Arizona composers who applied for this project, so the competition was stiff. The judges were professional musicians and conductors from Arizona. I will be working on the piece during the first part of 2010 as it needs to be completed by June.

The piece that I envision writing, would be a five-minute composition called “Arizona Centennial Overture”, celebrating the various cultures that make Arizona a unique blend of old and new. Sections of the overture would depict the indigenous cultures, the Spanish and Mexican heritage, the early pioneers, and finally, the recent diverse population growth.

I am also excited because I should get some good publicity and recognition as a composer in my new home state that may lead to other opportunities. I am humbled and thankful for this opportunity.

May my readers be blessed with a joyous holiday season and a wonderful 2010.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Grass Roots 3rd Movement Continued and Completed

I have completed the 3rd movement of Grass Roots and therefore the entire piece. The third movement is not only a "Manifestation", but a triumph. The "Manifestation"is represented by the rich harmonies and lyrical lines. The triumph is represented by the gradual increase in intensity as the movement unfolds. The increase in intensity is accomplished through the use of slight increases in tempo, changes in tessitura, increase in dynamics, and shortening of measures (6/8 to 5/8).

I continue my discussion of this movement with the section from 35 to 59. This section depicts a sense of grandeur, reflective of the awe-inspiring scenery of the National Parks. The tuba and left hand of the piano alternate phrases frequently in this section. The right hand of the piano fills in the lush harmony with an arpeggiated figure. When I first composed this section, it was 8 measures shorter. After I arrived at an end of the piece, I felt that I needed to add something here to balance the other movements as the movement was ending too soon. Therefore, M. 41-48 are repeated at 49-56 with some slight variations.

M. 56 begins the triumphant section. The tempo increases, measures are shortened, range is higher and more dotted rhythms are used to create the excitement.

M. 79 is the culmination of the excitement. The melodic line is even more syncopated and both piano and tuba have final flourishes expressing triumph.

I usually struggle with endings and this piece was no exception. My first attempts were too abrupt so I added a repeat of M. 79 & 80 done solely by the piano at 81 and 82. I also added some notes to the piano part in the last three measures as the motion stopped more abruptly than what I had in mind. The ending now has the appropriate length and a sense of broadening towards the final notes instead of just stopping.

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

Dr. B

Friday, November 27, 2009

Grass Roots 3rd Movement

I am about a minute and a half into the third movement and thought it would be a good time to pause and write about what I have accomplished. I did link the 2nd movement to the third by having the piano left hand sustain the dominant pitch C after the final chord of the 2nd movement. As this fades, the left hand continues with pyramid arpeggios and chords while the right hand answers with a more florid figure. The ideas develop and the hands change roles through measure 7 where the tuba enters with a variation of what the left hand did earlier. At M. 15 the ideas repeat up a half step. Although the meter is 6/8, the regularity of the 6/8 pattern is broken up with ties and syncopation, some which create more of a 3/4 feel against the 6/8. At M. 22, the meter is changed to 9/8 to break up the pattern even further.

It was about this point in the movement that I changed the movement's title. It was originally going to be called "Joining Forces". That title was only a working title as I knew I wanted something different. I had trouble with coming up with a word and figured if I just compose the music the title would come. I also felt that while the music was going well, I was a little unsure of the direction of the movement. If you remember, the inspiration for the entire piece was Ken Burn's film on the National Parks. While the piece can refer to the success of any social change, it is the power of those individuals with the vision of a park system that is being celebrated. So I wanted the last movement to reflect "America's Best Idea" and that gave rise to the new title, "Manifestation". It is the dream of many individuals coming into reality. My goal is to make the movement serene and awe inspiring.

M. 23 moves the piece ahead by using a development and elaboration of some of the ideas already presented. The piano accompaniment creates a 3/4 feel by alternating eighth notes between the hands. At M. 25, the pattern reverses itself for a measure to add variety. M 29 uses techniques such as inversion and retrograde of the tuba melody from M. 25 part of the time. This turning of the intervals upside down or doing some of the notes in reverse order adds variety but still keeps the melodic idea familiar. M 35 begins one of the awe-inspiring sections and I will talk about this when I do my next post.

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

Dr. B

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grass Roots 2nd Movement Completed

It is interesting how I seemed to have struggled with thew beginning of this movement because ideas seemed to be slow in coming and all of a sudden, the ideas started flowing so fast, I didn't want to stop to blog about what I was writing until I finished the movement. The last time I blogged, I was talking about the section between measures 21 and 40 that I referred to as "quiet seething". Beginning at measure 41, the piano takes over the argument with only brief interruptions by the tuba, until the tuba renews its point of view beginning at measure 46.

The conflict winds down leading to a canonic section at measure 53. The three part canon is like thee voices presenting their argument. There are subtle variations in the presentation of the canon to make it work harmonically and to adapt it to suit the instruments. For example, the 4 repeated sixteenth notes that begins the canon are easy on tuba, but difficult on piano. They become 4 different pitches in the piano. It also adds a slight variation to the melodic idea. Notice that the canonic entrances are separated by an unequal number of beats. At 61 and 62, the right hand of the piano fills in the melodic line with some harmony. At 63, the canon begins anew, this time starting in the right hand of the piano and the entrances are a measure apart as the argument becomes more intense. When the tuba enters at measure 65, the canon loses a beat and becomes more syncopated and this new rhythmic variant of the canon is repeated in the other voices.

After the canon quiets down, measure 76 begins to recapitulate the section from 21-50. The tuba plays alone for around 10 measures with only short punctuations by the piano. Measure 105 presents the climax and coda of the movement. The glisses do not play back well on MIDI as they start immediately, where in a live performance, one would hear more of the initial pitch. I am thinking that I will write a transition from the 2nd movement to the 3rd movement as I don't want this movement to sound too final.

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

Dr. B

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grass Roots 2nd Movement Continued

It didn't take me long to get over the hurdle of where to go next. The inspiration came while I was at concert of the Verde Valley Sinfonietta on Saturday Night. The 2nd piece on the program was a Mozart Clarinet Concerto and the first movement is a sonata form where the orchestra plays the themes then the clarinet. It was this simple form of repetition that gave me the idea of where I needed to go next in this 2nd movement.

I was originally thinking that I needed a change of thematic material at measure 11 where all I needed was a change in instrumentation. I put the tuba line from the first 10 measures in the right hand of the piano and gave the left hand a combination of what the two habns were doing before, although I used more left hand material than right hand. I also elaborated the right hand with harmony at times and extra notes so that the ideas flow a little more when compared to the first 10 measures.

I continued on at measure 21 with a quieter tuba line and a more flowing piano part. This section is like a quiet seething. The alternating eighth note accompaniment is varied as the hands switch beats after 2 measures. I expect to continue on in this manner for a while.

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

Dr. B

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Grass Roots 2nd Movement

Last night I had a dream that I was writing a clarinet concerto and the entire piece was there in my mind just waiting for me to write it down. I just wanted to get to my computer and get it all notated. In my dream, I commented to my wife that this is such a rare occurrence for me as composing is usually having a general idea of what I'm trying to achieve and then lots of perspiration figuring out how to make it work. Of course, when I woke up from this dream, I didn't remember any of the piece that was so clear to me while sleeping. This dream reminded me that some composers may receive such inspiration, but it has rarely ever happened to me. The closest I have come is when I was writing a piece for the Euphouria Quartet called "In Remembrance, September 11, 2001". The ideas for this piece just flowed so easily and served as an emotional release from that tragic time.

So back to reality and the beginning of the 2nd movement of Grass Roots. This movement is called "Conflict" and very generally depicts opposing forces in the debate to conserve our country's beauty and history for all to enjoy. My initial idea came very easily but it has taken me about two hours to write the first 10 measures. I have decided to blog today because of the contrast between my dream and reality. After working some this morning, I am now temporarily stuck. When I get stuck, it is usually time for me to take a break from the piece and come back to it with fresh ears. Hopefully tomorrow or the next day, I'll figure out what comes next. Sometimes that happens when I'm not even composing, like when I lie in bed waking up in the morning or taking a walk. A lot of times the problem gets solved by listening to what I have written over and over again. Occasionally I need to experiment with using some material from earlier in the piece, but I try not to construct my music. I prefer to let my ear tell me where the piece needs to go. On rare occasions, I discover that the what I have written actually works better later in the piece and I need to write a new beginning. My next blog will report how I solved this problem.

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

Dr. B

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Grass Roots 1st Movement

I have completed the first movement for now. The reason I say "for now" is that I'm not sure that it is complete until I finish the other movements.

The movement is very free in form although there is some repetition of material from time to time. But even those repetitions are varied. Since the movement is titled " A Voice in the Wilderness", there are certainly sections that evoke a sense of being a lone voice trying to accomplish a monumental task. Adding to the the uncertainty are several chromatic sections the evoke a sense of doubt. Lastly, there are sections of lyrical and harmonic beauty that try to depict the beauty of the land that is trying to be saved.

One challenge I was facing in this movement was to obtain rhythmic variety. Except for a few meter changes, the movement is mostly written in 4/4. However, one does not sense a strong metrical pulse because the phrases begin and end on different beats of the measure. I also changed tempo often to further disguise the regular pulse. a good example of both of these coming together is in measure 17 where the Ritard and the phrase end after beat 2 and the new phrase and tempo start on beat 3. The other part of the rhythmic challenge was the divisions of the beats as most everything was duple. Over the course of several revisions, I broke up the constant duple feel with the insertion of triplets and a quintuplet.

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

Dr. B

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Piece for Tuba and Piano

I have been commissioned by Steven Maxwell, tuba professor at Kansas State University, to write a piece for tuba and piano. Recently, I was inspired by watching Ken Burns film on the National Parks broadcast on PBS. What really inspired me was the ability of individuals to garner support and preserve our natural wonders for future generations. This gave me an idea for the piece. I'm calling it "Grass Roots" and I'm thinking of three movements: "A Voice in the Wilderness" which we be slow and introspective, "Opposition" which will be fast, contrapuntal and more dissonant, and "Joining Forces" which will begin quietly and become triumphant.

I have begun the first movement and I am very pleased with how it is going. It begins very rubato with tuba being to lone voice in the wilderness with the piano serving as punctuations. When the tempo becomes steadier at measure 9, the beauty of the wilderness is reflected in both the lyrical line and the rich harmony. Measures 12 and 13 have some wandering chromaticism that hints at the uncertainty that lies ahead.

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

Dr. B

Monday, September 28, 2009

Concertino Completed

I have now completed the "Concertino" as I also borrowed parts of the fast movement from the 1978 work for saxophone and piano. This movement was more difficult to work with than the slow movement because it had more extended sections featuring the piano. I decided to omit those sections and it balances the other movements very well. I also inserted a saxophone cadenza which was not present in the original work. Once again, I softened some of the dissonances, however, this movement is more dissonant than the other two movements. The staccato eighth notes often are more percussive than truly harmonic and adds rhythmic excitement to the movement.

There are once again, two main themes in this movement, the staccato idea, and the more sustained and lyrical idea. There is a development section in the middle. After the cadenza the opening material returns, but the sustained theme is varied quite a bit by giving parts of it to the saxophone over a triplet accompaniment.

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

Dr. B

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Legacy for Quartet

I promised that I would write about my re-scoring my orchestral composition "Legacy" for a quartet of clarinet, violin, cello and piano and the challenges I faced in order to accomplish this, so I'm finally getting around to it. "Legacy" is one of best compositions and it deserves to be heard more often than its first performance. It is extremely difficult to get additional performances by orchestras as most orchestras like to have the honor of the premiere and unless both the composer and/or the work becomes so well known, the work is likely to languish in the file cabinet. When I had the opportunity to compose a piece for the chamber ensemble "enhaké", I immediately thought of re-scoring this work for this excellent group of musicians.

Before I begin to discuss the challenges I faced, the reader may wish to visit my earlier blog on this work to gain insight into my thinking while composing this piece.
Here is the link http://composinginsights.blogspot.com/2007/09/legacy-general-description.html

The challenges fell into two main categories; what to do with the solo percussion parts and how do I cover all the important lines. When there were timpani solos, these were put in the cello or the left hand of the piano. Since fast repeated notes are difficult on piano, I often made the line more melodic. Non-pitched percussion solos like the ones in the toms were again given to either of these instruments. I created pitched lines for these.

Most of the time I was able to cover all the important lines. The greatest challenge was the loss of timbral variation that I had in the orchestral version. For example if I had a quartet of woodwinds playing a line in harmony, I needed to give it to all three monophonic instruments plus the right hand of the piano. I was able to use occasional double stops in the strings so the piano could do something else. In order to create some variety in timbre, sometimes the clarinet has the lead part and other times the violin. The extremely contrapuntal sections caused the most problem as I had to leave some lines out like in the Raga section at the end of the first movement, but I think the effect is still there. The musicians will also find themselves jumping rapidly back and forth between melodic material and background material as I needed all four instruments to play together very often just to cover the important parts of the orchestral piece.

I have some questions about bowings and articulations that are needed to have the group sound homogenious when require and to create the needed contrast when required. I have sent the score and parts to "enhaké" for their comments and I look forward to receiving their remarks.

To see and hear both versions, go to http://www.cooppress.net/legacy_blog.html

Dr. B

Monday, September 14, 2009

Concertino 2nd Movement

For the second movement of Concertino, I decided to adapt a 1978 composition of mine that was composed for the Bilger Duo with orchestra. It was a two movement work, beginning with a slow movement followed by a fast movement. The idea of recycling some of my music is very appealing to me. With over 250 compositions to my name, it is not always easy to come up with original works. I have an interesting story to relate regarding this.

A few years ago, I was a visiting composer at Mansfield University where Dr. Joe Murphy was performing several of my pieces. Just before the concert, he was rehearsing my Four Spanish Dances for saxophone and marimba and the concert began with my Sonata for saxophone and piano. When the concert began, I thought he left the music to my Spanish Dances on the stand and started playing that piece instead of the Sonata. It turned out both pieces began almost the same way and I was unaware of this until I heard them back to back. I wonder how many other composers borrow unconsciously from themselves.

In the case of the Concertino, I am borrowing consciously. The original work has had one performance in 30 years! Since it just sits in my file cabinet, why not give it new life? There are some good ideas in this piece, but I am struck by two observations as I adapt it. First is the amount of dissonance that I found acceptable in 1978. In my adaptation, I removed a lot of the dissonance. The second observation is the immaturity of developing my ideas and my instrumentation. As a result, I removed the former concerto from my catalog and I'm using the material in this new setting. I will probably do the same with the fast part for the last movement.

The second movement has two main sections, a very slow and rubato section and a slightly faster contrapuntal section. At M 43, I removed a lot of the dissonant counterpoint and replaced it with some syncopated chords in the trombones and tuba that is echoed by the timpani. At M. 48, I used some of the counterpoint from the previous work and linked it together with shorter syncopated sections in the trombones and tuba and shorter answering in the timpani. This sections builds nicely to a climax. The movement returns to the free tempo and ends with a suspended resolution as it will go directly into the fast last movement.

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

Dr. B

Friday, September 4, 2009

Concertino First Movement Completed

I have had some solid work sessions over the past few days and I have completed the first movement of my Concertino. I was correct when I said the vision for the structure would become clear when I completed the lyrical section. The lyrical section ends at m. 100 and I went into a short development of the four syncopated measures of the lyrical theme. The development is a short trio for saxophone, euphonium and percussion. After stating the four measures, I slip into a syncopated background figure that first occurs at m. 17. Following this interplay between instruments, a return to the full band playing material from M 16 fit nicely. I expanded the instrumentation and altered the solo saxophone part slightly during this recapitulation. I did not recapitulate the lyrical theme. Instead I brought the movement to a close with a three measure coda.

I plan to adapt a movement from and earlier composition for saxophone, piano and orchestra for the second movement. I'll begin working on that next week.

I have also completed two of the three movements of my adaptation of my orchestral piece Legacy for the enhaké quartet. This is going well and I'll blog on it and put up samples soon.

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

Dr. B

Monday, August 31, 2009

Concertino Continued

I'm now about 1:45 into the piece and I am still unsure of the structure. The first agitated section has now wound down to a lyrical saxophone melody over a staccato bass line. The agitated section is exciting and colorful and it uses many motives in different settings giving it unity and variety at the same time. The lyrical section which begins at measure 60 provides contrast by thinning the texture and being more sustained. At 81, the flutes and oboes will do a harmonized version of the saxophone melody at 64 while the saxophone will fill in some of the sustained notes with noodling.

I like what I am writing but always feel unsure of the piece until I can see where it is going. I think that once I finish this next session, the structure may become clearer.

Your comments are always welcomed.

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

Dr. B

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Concertino Continued

I'm back from camping and have been working on the Concertino again as well as the adaptation of my orchestral piece, Legacy, for the quartet enhaké. I hope to post about the adaptation once I complete each movement.

The Concertino is coming along. The ideas are starting to flow more easily. The structure is still very loose and doesn't follow the typical concerto form where the ensemble presents the themes first followed by the soloist presenting the themes. In fact, this piece doesn't really have any themes per se, but rather a number of related motifs that are introduced by both the ensemble and the saxophone. As the movement is developing, the motifs are presented in varying order and with varying instrumentation. The motifs are often expanded therefore the structure is more like a development rather than an exposition. With this being said, I still feel that the piece is both interesting and cohesive.

I will probably fill in some instrumentation as the movement progresses and give it more of a shape with dynamics, but the basic thoughts are already notated.

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

Dr. B

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Concertino for Alto Sax and Wind Ensemble

I have started on the Concertino and have about 20 seconds completed. For me, getting started is always the most difficult. I find it difficult for two reasons. The first is that I fear repeating myself. One of the criticisms of art that I frequently hear is that it is not original. I take that as critics are always looking for artists to invent something new. I think this is where music went astray during the 2nd half of the twentieth century where newness was more important than quality. I think that traditional materials can be used in new and refreshing ways. The second reason is that my music tends to get too complex too soon. This saxophone Concertino exemplifies how I dealt with these two concerns.

I began by creating some of the melodic lines and scored them so that the saxophone and wind ensemble alternate with each other. The melodic lines are fairly simple and are characteristics of my style where I like minor modalities and slide easily between different modes and tonal centers. It is hard at the beginning to know if one is just being consistent with their style or becoming repetitive between each composition. But I soon find that each idea suggests its own treatment that is often different than anything I have done before.

After getting most of the melodic lines written, I began to fill in the harmony and orchestrate the ideas. Even though the meter for the composition is 2/2, the phrasing is in a pattern other than 2/2. For example, the beginning starts with a 3 beat phrase followed by a four beat phrase. When the saxophone comes in, the horns accompany the soloist with a rhythmic pattern that repeats every 2 1/2 beats. This creates a complexity behind what appears to be simple ideas. If I started with a complex melodic idea, the counterpoint and rhythmic transformations would not work as well.

I'm heading on a camping trip for two weeks to visit family. While I might not blog, I hope to get composing time in on both my projects.

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

Dr. B

Friday, July 24, 2009

I'm Back Composing Again

Hello again to all my readers. I have now completed my move to Arizona and we have set up our new home and music publishing and recording business. Everything took longer than expected, but it is nice to be settled and we are enjoying being in the southwest.

I am now back composing. I am currently working on two projects. The first is a new concerto for alto saxophone and band for my former colleague, Dr. Andy Wen. Andy premiered my Lan Na Thai for Alto Saxophone and Pre-recorded sounds at the world Saxophone Congress in Thailand during July. The second project is a reworking of an orchestral piece of mine called "Legacy" for the award-winning chamber music group enhaké. The group consists of clarinet, violin, cello and piano.

This is the first time I have worked on two projects simultaneously. But since one of these is more arranging than composing, it should go smoothly. I'll be reporting on my progress with the saxophone concerto and linking to where you can see and hear this progress. As usual, I welcome your comments.

Dr. B

Monday, March 30, 2009

Moving to Arizona

During April, I will be moving to Arizona. We have sold our house in Pennsylvania and will be camping until we find our new home. As a result, my composing activities have been put on hold. I hope to be able to do some composing while camping, but it all depends on how quickly we find a house. I'll be reading any comments that are posted during this time and will resume posting as I begin working on new projects.If you haven't had the opportunity to read my earlier posts, I suggest that you do so. There are a lot of ideas regarding composing and interpreting music that could be helpful for developing composers and to those just interested in learning more about music.

Dr. B

Monday, March 16, 2009

Contrasts Revised

I heard back from John DelVento who had a few good suggestions to adapt the piece to his needs. The first suggestion was in response to my concern about range. The high Db in measure 48 was possible but would be a weak sounding note. Since I wanted this to build to the Allegro, I changed measure 48 to a 3/4 measure, left out the Db on beat 4 and altered notes on the 2nd beat. This accomplishes the drive to the Allegro I wanted in a similar manner.

I was also concerned about the range at the end of the piece, but John said this would be okay. But in looking at it again, I decided to take the first run down an octave which makes the ending more effective.

John also wanted more rhythmic variety in measure 102. Since I wanted a repeated note idea for the beginning of the canon, I broke up the constant 16th notes by putting a eighth note on beat 3.

The last revision was to add a ritard on beat 4 of measure 38 with an A tempo on measure 38. I like this change and it shows the musicality of John, who made the suggestion.

Composers should always be willing to adapt their music to the needs of their performers if it does not compromise in intent of the music. I also find that a objective 2nd party who can listen to my music with fresh ears can also be a benefit. I usually play my compositions for my wife who has come up with many fine ideas to improve my music. Even though I have been composing for 55 years, I still have things that I can learn from others. I thank all those who have offered suggestions over the years. Creating a musical composition is similar to an author creating a novel. If one reads the acknowledgments at the beginning of the book, one realizes that the final product is a result of many others who inspire or assist in the creation of the final product.

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

Dr. B

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Contrasts for Euphonium and Piano Part 2 Completed

I have now completed Contrasts with the exception of getting feedback from John DelVento. I have sent him a copy of the euphonium part for his comments.

I have continued the idea of contrasts throughout this second part. It is imperative that the performers observe the dynamics and articulations for the piece to have its maximum effect. The second part is in an arch form ABCBA where the C section serves as a development of ideas from the A and B sections. The C section also introduces a new thematic idea that is treated canonically. The euphonium uses double tonguing to introduce the canon and the piano uses staccato eighth notes as rapid repetitions of the same pitch are not characteristic of the piano. The sections of the second part are as follows: M. 49-50 transition from slow to fast section. M 51-79 A. M 79-97 B. M 97-101 transition to C. M 102-134 C (development). Of note in this section is the canon I described earlier and the use of the B theme over the canon beginning at M 118. M. 135-138 transition back to B (these contrasting measures are used often for transitions and surprise, like at 157-159 which brings the listener back to the A material). M.160-179 A. M 179-end concluding section or coda.

I urge all composers to format their own parts. When I do this, I see each part from a more linear perspective. While I was formatting the euphonium part, I discovered that I did not give the euphonium player as much rest as I thought I did when composing the piece. This raises a question of endurance and I am asking John to comment on this aspect of the piece. I think it will be okay as there are numerous short rests and two longer multi-measure rests. I became aware of this when trying to figure out where to put page turns. In one place (M. 116), I actually removed some notes from the euphonium part so that a page turn could be accomplished. I added some dynamics at that point to make the rest of it fit what I intended.

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

Dr. B

Monday, March 2, 2009

Contrasts for Euphonium and Piano Part 2

I have begun the fast section of Contrasts and I am pleased with how it is going. It is challenging for me to compose with uninterrupted daily sessions as things keep coming up regarding my impending move to the Southwest. I also spent several days moving some cassette recordings of my music over to digital. That was an interesting project as it gave me a chance to review several earlier compositions and I have decided to eliminate some of those works from my catalog. My main reason for eliminating them was because they are too dissonant. They were composed during the 1970's and early 1980's and I find that I have become more tonal in my later years.

The fast section of Contrasts begins with a syncopated motif in the euphonium and a staccato 1/8 note bass line in the piano. The piano soon picks up the syncopated rhythmic feel while the euphonium becomes more lyrical with its line that is interspersed with some staccato figures for contrast. I find myself attracted lately to a 3 phrase structure reminiscent of the 12 bar blues (a a b). However my 3 phrase structure is often 11 bars instead of 12. The piano them takes over the euphonium part in the right hand beginning at measure 62 while the left hand remains syncopated. From measure 73 to the downbeat of 79, the euphonium and piano have a transition section consisting of the running 16th notes over syncopation. From the 2nd beat of measure 79 up to where I stopped is a more lyrical 2nd theme (also in a 3 phrase structure) over a quiet yet intense bass line. The piano fills in with some running 16th notes during the euphonium sustained notes. The harmony of this fast section is primarily quartal (chords and arpeggios in 4ths instead of 3rds).

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

Dr. B

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Contrasts for Euphonium and Piano Part 1

I have completed the slow section of this two-part piece and I am pleased with the results. However, I was not feeling that way while I was working on the piece. I mentioned in my last post that I was pleased with the beginning of the piece and will then need to see where the piece takes me. What I mean by this statement is that my music, as well as a lot of other contemporary music, is based on motives rather than themes or melodies that occur in regular phrases. Therefore the traditional formal treatments do not seem to apply and it is often unclear what structure the composition will take. It wasn't until Monday, when I reached the climax at measure 24, that the shape of this section became clear. This part is a loose ABA structure with the first A going from the beginning to measure 16, the B section from measure 17-25, and the last A, with some slight changes,from 26-42. A euphonium cadenza serves as an interlude to the upcoming Allegro.

The way each section is constructed is based on key motives that suggest new melodic ideas. The harmony is a result of the independent, yet related lines in the euphonium and in both hands of the piano. Let me identify some of the key motivic ideas and then you can try to find them being used in both the euphonium and piano parts throughout this section.

The opening 16th notes in the piano becomes what I call a noodling motif. It comes back in various forms in both instruments. The three 8th note idea that leads to longer note that occurs first in the euphonium melody in measure 1 to measure 2 is another important recurring idea. The two 16th notes followed by an 8th note which first occurs in the euphonium in measure 5 gets transformed in its melodic direction, but is an important unifying rhythmic idea. The syncopated 8th 1/4 8th rhythm that is used for sudden contrast in the piano in measure 3, dominates the middle section and is the main feature of the climax. The triplets, sextuplets, and 32nd notes all add rhythmic variety and are interspersed at key moments in this section and are also important in the cadenza. Another key element is the interval of an ascending minor 7th that is used throughout, but especially at the climaxes.

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

Dr. B

Monday, February 9, 2009

New Piece for Euphonium and Piano

After spending the past three weeks preparing our home for sale so that we can move to Arizona, I am finally back composing. My next project is a composition for euphonium and piano for John DelVento, a very talented high school student from Connecticut. Since we are looking at a piece that lasts approximately eight minutes, I thought I would write a piece that begins with a slow section and ends with a fast section. This approach gave rise to the title "Contrasts", and the title suggested the opening of the piece. I began with a high piano arpeggiation that is vague in tonality. The euphonium enters one and half beats later with a low and sustained line therefore setting up the first contrast. Other contrasts occur in measure three with the articulation of the piano at the end of the measure and in measures 4 and 5 where the texture changes to euphonium alone. Measure 5 is also a contrast to the quarter note pulse by using an uneven 7/8. There are also contrasts in tonality as the piece does settle in any one place. These contrasts are subtle, but nonetheless important to the musical expression of the piece.

I always find getting started on a new piece challenging, especially after a lay off from composing. I have this fear that I won't be able to come up with anything and if I do, it will sound just like something I have already written. It still amazes me that I can come up with something new each time. I am looking forward to working on this piece and seeing where it takes me.

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

Dr. B

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Busy January

I wish to explain my absence from posting on this blog for over a month. My compositional efforts have been focused on arranging the song contest winners in the York Symphony Orchestra competition. There were five compositions awarded prizes and part of the prize is to have their composition arranged for orchestra and performed by the York Symphony. The winners range in age from 9 through 14 and I am astounded at the talent these young composers display.

I also worked with an organist on registration and reworking three of my chorale preludes to enter in a competition. Since the competition required anonymous entries, I cannot post my revisions, but I would like to share with you some of the things that I have learned that are not in any books and articles about writing for organ. Regarding writing for the pedals, it is easier for the organist to alternate feet than to slide the foot. Therefore I reworked my pedal part to alternate feet more often. I also tended to use the extreme low notes too often that had the organist constantly reaching to his left with his feet instead of playing toward the middle of the pedals most of the time. For the manuals, I reworked some of the voicing so that the organist’s fingers could glide from note to note instead of lifting the hand. Lastly, we rebalanced the registration in order to bring out the important lines.

I also took a two-week vacation to southern Georgia. When my wife and I arrived home, we decided that it was time to leave Pennsylvania and relocate in the sunny southwest. During the past two weeks, we have been readying our house for sale and making plans to relocate. Now that the house is listed, we are gradually going through our belongings and selling off or giving away many things and packing the rest. We hope that the house will sell quickly so that we can get on the road by mid-April. We plan to camp in our van until we find a place to relocate and then send for our belongings. We are looking forward to both the adventure and to being settled in a new place.

My next project is to compose a piece for euphonium and piano for a very talented high school student, John DelVento. I hope to work on it while waiting for the house to sell and during our travels. I will try to post more often during the transition period in our lives.

Dr. B