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, December 10, 2010

Divertissement - VI. Galop for woodwind doubler and piano

I created two versions of the final movement, one for woodwind doubler and piano and the other for piccolo and piano. The basis of the work was Divertissement for oboe, piano and percussion and the last movement, Galop had a lot of interplay between xylophone and piano. The xylophone part ended up in both the piano and solo part.

Let me discuss the woodwind doubler version first. The first thing I did was to listen through the movement and make some decisions regarding the order and places for instrument changes. I tried to pick sections that were characteristic for each instrument, but since this movement is a rondo form and had several repeated A sections, the order of the instruments took precedent. I knew that I wanted to start with bassoon because setting up a seat strap was easier at the beginning of a movement. I also heard the more lyrical section from M. 47-84 as being a saxophone line. I knew that I wanted to end with flute with a change to piccolo for the last two measures. That just left me where to put the clarinet and oboe and I decided to have the clarinet after the bassoon and the oboe after the saxophone.

My next consideration was making sure there was enough time to make the changes. The spots I chose for the switching all had long enough piano interludes except at measure 20. Originally there were only 2 measures here and I expanded it to 8. The other spot that has me concerned is measure 80. There only four measures of fast 2/4 to change from saxophone to oboe. If this is not enough time, I could insert 2 measures of silence after measure 82 that I think would be effective.

I wanted to do a piccolo version of the last movement for marketing purposes. Each movement of this piece could stand alone as a short piece for flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, and now piccolo. I will also publish the work as a woodwind doubler's dream (or nightmare, depending upon how one views it). While working on the piccolo version, I realized that the last measure works better up an octave. I changed it on my woodwind doubler version, but did post the changes here so you need to imagine the last measure up an octave.

Both versions are posted for your perusal.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/divertissement_mixed_woodwinds_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Monday, December 6, 2010

Divertissement - V. Romanza for oboe and piano

Before discussing the Romanza, I would like to respond to Bret's comments about the Marche. As a composer, I have no problems with a performer adding their individual interpretation to my music. There is always a fine line that a composer needs to walk between marking every nuance in the music a la Mahler, and not having enough markings in the music to aid the interpreter. I mark my music with what I feel are the essentials. If Bret hears a pause on beat three of the first measure and wants to add an accent in measure 11, I have no problem with that. The same is true with slight crescendos and diminuendos to enhance the phrasing. I would be disappointed if the musician didn't do that.

On the other hand, the performer also walks a fine line with deciding when to change a composer's music. Most performers want to be true to what the composer has written, but acoustics of a hall, individual interpretation, balance issues, etc. all combine to make each performance unique. However, I feel that radically altering a composer's tempo and style indications goes beyond the freedom of interpretation. That happened to me on a recording of my "I Am Music" through ERM Media that had tempos almost 40 MM slower than indicated and what was discussed with the conductor. It totally changed the spirit of the piece.

All this leads me back to Bret's other suggestion of substituting a glissando instead of the chromatic sixteenth notes in the Marche. This I feel is approaching a radical change and I am glad he expressed his thoughts rather than just doing it. I am hearing 16th notes and these chromatic passages help unify the last section. If a glissando was inserted at measures 71-72, it would create a different meaning for the later chromatics. On the other hand, if a glissando was used in place of the chromatic 16th notes at measures 117-118, it could create a nice variety. I would like to hear those measures both ways before deciding, but I am open to that possibility as the chromatic scales have already unified the last third of the movement.

The Romanza was the easiest movement to adapt as I was not changing the solo instrument from the original version. All I needed to do was to eliminate the wind chime percussion part. Since the wind chime entrances were used to continue the motion, I inserted some notes in the piano part to compensate. I also added a run to the oboe part at measure 53 to aid with keeping the motion going.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/divertissement_mixed_woodwinds_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Divertissement - IV. Marche for clarinet and piano

This movement included some snare and cymbal parts that needed to be replaced. The piece actually began with a snare drum figure for one measure and I just eliminated that. Most of the movement was fine without the percussion except when the percussion played alone. Measure 38 was one of those places. I used a sustained note in the left hand of the piano, added three extra notes to the piano right hand and turn the 6/8 measure into a 9/8 measure. Measure 51 just uses the sustained in the right hand to fill in for the missing percussion.

Measures 65 to 73 was entirely percussion and piano left hand. The clarinet part and piano right hand was added to replace the percussion. Upon review of the movement, I added the chromatic 16th note run at measures 71 and 72 and I like the improvement. It also suggested other places to add the 16th notes like measures 80, 117, 118 and 120.

Measures 89 to 96 took a snare drum figure and made it into a piano left hand line. One can definitely hear the snare drum in one's imagination.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/divertissement_mixed_woodwinds_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Der Fledermaus Fantasy for Clarinet and Piano

I have been working on this composition while I am working on Divertissement, so this post interrupts my posting regarding that composition. I am writing Der Fledermaus Fantasy for Melissa Garner Koprowski, a wonderful clarinetist who recently won the International Clarinet Association's Young Artist Competition. We went through several ideas regarding a composition for her before settling on this idea as Melissa loves to play operatic pieces.

This Fantasy is modeled after Sarasate's "Carmen Fantasy"as it uses themes from the opera and expands upon them in order to show off the solo instrument. I essentially used the overture and inserted Rosalinde's Csardas in the middle of it. After entering all the notes from the piano/vocal reduction and deciding what parts to give the solo clarinet, I went through the entire score to find the best key regarding ease of technique and best sounding range. The overture was mostly in A, D, G, and E major with the Csardas in B minor. I ended up using Eb, Ab, Db, and Gb for the overture and Bb minor for the Csardas. At measure 497, I inserted another modulation to put the piece back into Eb for the ending.

Once the keys were settled, I then worked on elaborating on Strauss. Almost all the elaborations occurred in the clarinet part. but I did add some things to the piano as well. This was fun piece to work on because the melodies are so lyrical and playful. I was careful in my elaborations to retain the character of Strauss, but to make the piece more like a clarinet solo.

While composing this piece, I encountered a problem with the Sibelius playback that I never encountered before. The first half of the piece is fine, but starting with the Csardas, Sibelius had difficulty playing repeated notes. Any sustained repeated note following a shorter note would not be sustained. I was able to overcome this problem by using articulation but all the material following the Csardas  sounds rhythmically spastic. Sibelius is fine when I play other files so I am wondering if it had trouble with all the fermatas in the Csardas. As you listen, just be aware that some of the uneven rhythm is not intentional.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Der_Fledermaus_Fantasy_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Monday, November 29, 2010

Divertissement - III. Valse for bassoon and piano revised

Please be sure to read Bret's comment regarding my last post as he had some excellent suggestions regarding improving this movement that I have incorporated into this revision. I have posted his comment and this blog as an illustration of how a composer and performer can collaborate to make a stronger composition. If you are a composer, I encourage you to take lessons on all the instruments as it really helps to learn to write for them. I had the good fortune to have both my B.S. and M.S. in Music Education so have studied all the instruments in either a class situation or privately. But even then, I cannot have the knowledge that a skilled performer has, so I relish the opportunity to learn from them.

I have reposted the audio files of the Valse with the revisions. Here is a summary of the changes:

I was very careful to avoid the crossed lines between the left hand of the piano and the bassoon. When Sibelius played the piece back, I did not hear any problems with crossed lines as the timbres were so different, but I can imagine that in live performance, there would be more reverb and therefore blurring of the lines. Most of the time, I took sections of the left hand of the piano down an octave. Sometimes I took it up an octave and put it in treble clef. Another time, I took the bassoon up an octave (measures 60-76) which helped with the lines and also explored the higher register of the bassoon. I choose this spot as it was a recapitulation of the opening material and the new timbre gave it variety.

I made the last note optional 8va basso as inserting a tube into the bassoon can make this note possible.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/divertissement_mixed_woodwinds_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Friday, November 26, 2010

Divertissement - III. Valse for bassoon and piano

This third movement came over very easily for bassoon and piano. I did not need to change the key as I did in the first two movements as taking it down 2 octaves and putting it in bass clef suited the bassoon range and tessitura well. The only thing I needed to be concerned with was loosing the percussion part which was all bass drum in this movement.

This movement is a humorous valse (waltz) and the bass drum added to the humor by being on beats other than the strong beat of the measure. I was able to just eliminate the bass drum because the syncopations in the bassoon and piano still left the piece with the feeling of an awkward waltz. There were a few measures where the bass drum played alone. Measures 51 and 54 are 4/4 measures where the bass drum played on all four beats. I found the the silence for all four beats worked very well and I did not neat to add anything. The other spot was measures 108-109 where the bass drum had a triplet figure that diminuendoed. I created a similar figure for the bassoon and that solved the problem.

I chose bassoon and piano for this movement because of the humorous flavor. I also slowed the tempo down a notch to make the waltz a little more lumbering.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/divertissement_mixed_woodwinds_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Monday, November 15, 2010

Divertissement - II. Nocturne for alto saxophone and piano

Once more, I found myself transposing this movement up a fourth from the oboe, piano and percussion version. It fit the alto saxophone range better but I needed to bring some of the piano part down an octave to make it work. This movement used marimba in the other version, so I was challenged to find a place for the marimba parts. Most of the time, I incorporated it into the piano, but there were times where the saxophone has some of the marimba part. Unless you compared the two versions or I told you specifically where to look or listen, I hope that you will not be aware of something added. My goal was to transform the other piece into something that sounds like it was written first for this instrumentation.

Another challenge was to keep the forward motion going in this movement as the marimba was rolling a lot of notes and when that part came into the other instruments, some momentum was lost. As a result, I added some harmony and also a new rhythmic motif of 16th rest, 16th note, 1/8th note. Measure 10 is an example of added harmony and measure 11 has the new rhythmic motif. I carried this motif through in several other places as it added a new dimension to the piano part.

The Meno mosso at measure at measure 36 is also something that was not present in the original. I feel the change of tempo is needed here because I did not have the change of color as in the original version.

In the first movement, I took Bret's suggestion of extending the range and brought the flute up an octave at measures 71-73. This fits very well as it is the climax of the movement. The scorch file has the change. If you listen to the mp3 file, imagine these 3 measures up an octave.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/divertissement_mixed_woodwinds_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Divertissement - I. Intrada for flute and piano

I am writing my next composition for Bret Pimentel of Delta State University in Cleveland, MS, who is a master at doubling on multiple woodwinds.  This composition recycles material that I used in a 2005 composition of the same name, but the instrumentation was for oboe, piano, and percussion.

I decided to do the first movement over for flute and piano. This is a lively movement that uses a lot of syncopation and is a technical showpiece. It is typical of my style as it is tonal, yet the tonalities move freely on one key to another and the harmonies are a combination of of chords in fourths, triads, and mild polytonality. In converting this movement for flute, I transposed the movement up a 4th to get the flute in a brighter register. I took some of the piano part down an octave to keep it out of the flute register. There were several places where the percussion played alone and those places needed to be filled in with flute or piano parts. I also varied some of the articulation and dynamics to make it work better for this instrumental combination.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/divertissement_mixed_woodwinds_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Monday, November 1, 2010

Burnsiana Movement 5

Scots! wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots! wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victory!

Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour:
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and slavery!

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

What for Scotland's king and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw?
Freeman stand, or freeman fa'?
Let him on wi' me!

By oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow! -
Let us do or die!

This movement is the most Scottish sounding of Burnsiana, and rightly so, as it is the most patriotic of the poems I chose to influence this composition. The movement begins with a bagpipe type drone on the tenor and baritone saxophones. The soprano saxophone has melody that represents the calm before the battle. The rallying of the troops begins at measure 16. Staccato notes and trills permeate this section. The battle itself begins at measure 34 with short accented notes representing dueling.

Measures 42 - 92 is the heat of the battle. The soprano and alto saxophones alternate minor scale passages while the tenor and baritone saxophones have a more sustained melody based on diminished 7th chord harmonies. Measure 63 is a canonic interlude based on earlier material of rallying the troops. This staccato idea becomes an underpinning for a re-orchestration of the diminished 7th sustained melody.

Measures 92-112 rallies the troops again, but this time with use of the melody to Scotland the Brave, first over a drone and rhythmic accompaniment and then in a canon of one beat over the same accompaniment. The battle continues again at measure 112 before Scotland the Brave enters for the final time at Measure 125, this time combined with the melody and drone of the introduction. The victorious battle concludes the movement and the composition.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Burnsiana_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Burnsiana Movement 4

All I can say is that Robert Burns must have had a lot of girlfriends and most of them named Jean. When I told the Avion Saxophone Quartet and its director that one of the poems I was using was Bonnie Jean, I discovered that the actual poem is called Jean. Bonnie Jean is a different poem. Anyway, here is the text that influenced the fourth movement:


Of a' the airts the wind can blaw,
I dearly like the west.
For there the bonnie lassie lives,
The lassie I lo'e best:
There wild woods grow, and rivers row,
And monie a hill between;
But day and night may fancy's flight
Is ever wi' my Jean.

I see her in the dewy flowers,
I see her sweet and fair:
I hear her in the tunefu' birds,
I hear her charm the air:
There's not a bonnie flower that springs
By fountain, shaw, or green;
There's not a bonnie bird that sings,
But minds me o' my Jean.

I original thought of setting this in a slow tempo but when I got into it, I was impressed by the references to nature and the lightness of the expression of love, that I chose a slow waltz instead. This tempo and style also fits the sequence of movements better as I used a slow tempo for movement 2. There is slight polytonality in this movement. The Baritone Saxophone starts out in F, The Tenor and Alto Saxophones in Bb, and the Soprano Saxophone in C. These keys are closely related so there is not much dissonance.

The form is AABAABCCDBAAB. Contrast is created through melodic material, texture, orchestration and articulation. The tenor and baritone saxophones have a lot of melody in some of the sections. The music almost sounds flirtatious rather than a serious love.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Burnsiana_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Burnsiana Movement 3

The third movement is based on To A Mouse. The poetry follows.

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles,
but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request:
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

The first image that comes to mind when reading this poem was of a mouse scurrying through a field. I tried to represented this by using key clicks in the saxophone. The recorded versions of this movement have the saxophone sounds and not the key clicks, so you will need to use your imagination. I was frustrated trying to get the software to playback with the key click sound. First of all, there were no key click sound in the sampled instruments. I tried to change to a percussion sound, but when I did it changed the notation. Then I tried to use an effect like a snap, but heard no difference. If anyone knows how to do this on Sibelius, I would love to learn how to do it.

The key clicks uses a scalar pattern in g minor. They are interrupted by two measures solos and finally a four measure 5/8 phrase. At measure 20, the key clicks come back in a new key but this time the last measure becomes a 5/8 instead of a 6/8 to add a little variety.

Measure 39 ushers in a new section that represents the accidental interruption of nature's balance. This section is mostly in 5/8, an unbalanced meter.

Measure 55 begins a very highly chromatic section and represents the harshness of winter that both the mouse and the plowman must survive. This section culminates in diminished 7th tremolos before transitioning into a more reflective section at measure 91. This reflection uses the key clicks again, but at a slower tempo along with more reflective interruptions that eventually develop into a quiet ending that leaves the listener with an unsure feeling, much in the way Burns' poem does.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Burnsiana_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Burnsiana Movement 2

These past week or so, I worked on the second movement of Burnsiana. The poem I used for the inspiration of the movement follows:


O, My Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my Luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun!
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!

I begin the movement with timbre trills. Timbre trills occur when the performer goes back and forth between the regular fingering for a note and an alternate fingering. I put a footnote to these trills indicating that they should be slow and gentle, like the rustling of leaves. I am trying evoke a sense of nature and of beauty. The playback does not create the effect I want as it is too regular and too pronounced. The lyrical (love) melody occurs first in the alto saxophone but soon travels to all the other saxophones during the entire movement, sometimes as solos, sometimes as duets, and sometimes in counterpoint.

Beginning in measure 10, the soprano saxophone plays a descending stepwise figure that once again gets transferred to all the instruments. As the poem intensifies with the ideas of parting and traveling to return, the descending stepwise idea is augmented to create a more undulating sense of urgency (measure 14). The melodic lines along with this figure are still lyrical, but more intense.

I take a liberty with Burns' poem by returning to the more subdued expression of love for the end of the movement. I simply repeat the first thirteen measures at a slightly slower tempo and only create a different ending for this material.

I usually like to create using a transposed score as I can see the ranges the instruments are playing in clearer and transposing in my head to recognize how the pitches sound does not cause me any problems. When working on this piece, I found the constant transposing in my head challenging because the top part is in Bb, the 2nd in Eb, the 3rd in Bb and the 4th in Eb. I was getting confused regarding what pitches were actually sounding. When I placed the score in concert pitch, the tenor and baritone saxophones were still in treble clef, so they had many ledger lines below the staff that were just as hard to read. I then put the tenor and baritone saxes in bass clef for the composing phase and the notes were in the staves, making the creation of the harmony and contrapuntal lines easier. This will be the way I will work on this piece from now on. I put the score back to transposed and changed the clefs back to treble for these posts.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Burnsiana_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Burnsiana Movement 1

Hello readers,

My next project is a composition for the Avion Saxophone Quartet of Wright State University. This is a commission through the Co-op Press Commission Assistance Program and the composition will be hopefully be premiered at the Ohio Music Educators Association Conference in January 2011. There is also a possibility of a performance at the 2012 World Saxophone Congress in Scotland and this possibility gave rise to the title and inspiration for the composition.

I have selected five poems of Robert Burns to represent through music. The first is My Bonny Mary and the poem appears below.

Go fetch to me a pint o' wine,
An' fill it in a silver tassie,
That I may drink, before I go,
A service to my bonnie lassie.
The boat rocks at the pier o' Leith,
Fu' loud the wind blaws frae the ferry,
The ship rides by the Berwick-law,
And I maun leave my bonnie Mary.

The trumpets sound, the banners fly,
The glittering spears are rankèd ready;
The shouts o' war are heard afar,
The battle closes thick and bloody;
But it's no the roar o' sea or shore
Wad mak me langer wish to tarry;
Nor shout o' war that's heard afar—
It's leaving thee, my bonnie Mary!

The first stanza brought two images to mind. The first is a drinking song and the other is the rocking of a ship. Both these images suggested a moderate 6/8 meter with a lilt, but when I got into composing the piece, the rhythmic feel changed to incorporate some 5/8 and 7/8 measures as well. It still has the lilt, but the irregularity of the meters adds rhythmic interest.

Measures 1-16 represent the first half of the first stanza which is the drinking song. Measures 17-33 is more intense as it represents a foreboding of the battle to come. The language throughout is modal and chromatic with harmony in thirds and fourths. There is frequent use of imitation.

Measure 24 heralds in the second stanza with fanfare figures. This is the most intense section as it represents the battle itself. At measure 39 cluster chords are used. This figure repeats often in the section though it is varied through sequence, hemiola and syncopation.

The battle winds down by measure 58 and measure 59 to the end uses some of the opening material as both the poem and the music become more reflective of having to leave his bonnie Mary to go off to war. The instrumentation is varied slightly as is the melody to make it calmer and sadder than the opening. The movement ends quietly as if the writer is off in his own reverie.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Burnsiana_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fantasie Variations on the Polish National Anthem - End

Yesterday, I finished Fantasie Variations and I'm pleased with the way it came out especially considering the departure from my normal style. There are nine variations and I repeat the theme again at the end before moving to a coda.

The final fast section begins with a 5/8 variation where the measures are grouped 3+2. When I marked the tempo as 8th equals 240, little did I know that the tempo was ideal as it transitions with the eighth equaling the eighth into 6/8, where the dotted quarter equals 80, and then to 3/4, where the quarter equals 120, which was the tempo of the opening fast section. The opening piano motif uses the dotted eighth and sixteenth rhythm that permeates the theme. The saxophone enters (measure 147) with an elaborate filling in of the minor third opening interval of the theme with a turn (note, note below, note, note above). But the rest of the 5/8 is mostly free material, thus is very far removed from the theme. There are three large phrases for this idea (measures 147-165) and those 3 phrases repeat (measures 166-184), but with the piano doing the melody and the saxophone filling in for the first two phrases then back to the reverse for the last phrase. The 6/8 section at 185 varies the B part of the theme and is more recognizable even in 6/8. Hemiola of 3 against 2 is used a lot in this section.

An extension by one beat transitions the listener back into the minor variant heard earlier but with its own variation of the chromatic runs from measures 202-209. Measure 210-217 is a variant of the introduction and then the theme returns to remind the listener of what was varied. I set up the coda at measure 241 with a 5/4 measures that repeats the turn motif and sounds as if things are coming to a halt before the boisterous, rousing close.

After listening to the entire piece, I altered the chords in measure 125 so that the altered chords create a smoother progression. Because of this, I've included the entire composition in the 8/18 posting of the Sibelius file, but the mp3 is just measures145 to the end.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Fantasie_Variations_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fantasie Variations on the Polish National Anthem - Middle

To create a four-measure transition to the slower section, I used a motive from the first measure of the anthem in the left hand of the piano and answered it with the motive inverted in the right hand of the piano. The idea is extended freely as it modulates to F major and the Andante.

My idea for the Andante was to explore the feminine cadence style trait if the polonaise. A feminine cadence resolves on a weak beat instead of a strong beat (example: dominant chord on beat 1 and tonic chord on beat 2). I also used the same dotted rhythm motive I used in the transition as the basis for a free melody for this section. To break up the regularity of phrasing, there are meter changes, irregular length phrases, and a forte sextuplet that adds and element of surprise. Measures 113 to 120 is a variation of the second part of the anthem that incorporates elements of the measures preceding it.A sudden modulation using the sextuplet idea followed by a fragment of the Andante melody transitions the listener to the Lento.

The Lento is the most lyrical section of the piece. It is also freely based on the opening rising motive of the anthem but without the middle note. Lush harmony that contains some borrowed chords for chromatic interest permeates this section.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Fantasie_Variations_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fantasie Variations on the Polish National Anthem

Hello readers. I have been working on a new composition for about two weeks. My work has been sporadic because I have also been completely revising my website which is now up and running.

My new composition is being composed for saxophonist David Wozniak and pianist Libby Vanatta who received a Recording Grant from Co-op Press. David wanted a new piece with Polish influences and suggested using the Polish National Anthem.

I find it challenging to compose a composition based upon music with a very simple structure. The chords of the anthem are I, IV, V, the melody is totally diatonic, the meter is 3/4 with a Polonaise rhythm, the form is AB and the phrases are four measure phrases. In in order to be consistent, stylistically, one needs to respect this simplicity, yet at the same time, strive to be inventive.

I began with a simple introduction using motives from the melody is a brief contrapuntal treatment. After an eight measure introduction, the anthem is stated with the polonaise rhythm. On the repeat of the B section, I ornament the melody a little bit.

At measure 33, my ear suggested a minor mode variation. The piano plays alone for the first eight measures then the saxophone joins with a chromatic variation on top of the chordal piano part. I end this variation with a 4/4 measure followed by two more 4/4 measures as an interlude. This breaks up the 3/4 pattern.

The next variation is quieter and thinner in texture, just the saxophone variant and the left hand of the piano. After eight measures, this repeats, but the right hand of the piano does some staccato arpeggios before erupting into a chromatic flourish. Once more I end with a 4/4 measure followed by two more measures of 4/4 interlude.

The last new variation of this fast opening section is the farthest removed thus far. The interlude that precedes it uses some chords in fourth that sets up a looser melodic and harmonic variation. I change meter more frequently therefore creating variety in rhythm as well.

To end this fast section, I repeat the minor variant from earlier but add a little saxophone fill in the sustained notes of the first eight measures.

I plan to transition to a slower section and will discuss that after it is composed.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Fantasie_Variations_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Adages for Violin and Tuba Movement 6

Yesterday I finished Adages with the completion of movement 6 "A rolling stone gathers no moss." When I first read this adage, the musical treatment I envisioned was a perpetual motion to represent the rolling stone. I selected the 6/8 meter because of its rolling rhythmic feel and began the piece with a chromatic eighth note idea in the violin. In the fifth measure, I bring the tuba in with a more diatonic, lilting melody for four measures which becomes the A theme of this rondo style movement. The violin continues its chromatic rolling against the tuba theme.

One of the challenges I faced during this movement was finding a way to allow each instrument some break from the continuous eighth note rhythm that creates the perpetual motion. This is more necessary for the tuba and the player needs time to breath, but I was also concerned with breaking up the pattern for the violinist as well. The section from measures 9-12 illustrates my solution. I alternate the chromatic pattern between the two instruments every beat (section B of the rondo).

Measures 13-16 is a return of the A idea but with a different tonal center followed by a return of section B also with a new tonal center. Towards the end of this B section, the idea gets extended to two, three and four beats, creating overlap between the instruments. This section, which I call C, concludes with four beats of chromatic scale for each instrument.

Measures 27-50 is ABABC but with the violin and tuba switching roles. Measures 51-54 is a harmonized version of the A theme. It is followed by a variation of B as the two instruments are are playing the one beat chromatic idea at the same time and silence is inserted followed by a syncopated low tuba note as if the rolling stone is now hitting some bumps along the way. With the meaning of the adage being if we keep active we won't wither, it is possible that we might hit some bumps in the road of life that will try to interfere, as the music does at this point.

Measures 62-69 is both a variation of A and B as the ideas are treated canonically. Measures 70 to the end use the original A and B with the tuba and violin exchanging roles followed by C with a little more overlapping and a strong ending that represents the stone arriving at its final destination.

After completing the movement, I felt good about it, but still felt something was missing, so I let it rest a bit and planned to come back to it later. The solution occurred to me in the afternoon as I was reading a book. The piece needed more dynamics. I added lots of crescendo and diminuendo to the phrases and all of a sudden, the movement gelled.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/adages_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Adages for Violin and Tuba Movement 5

Adage five is "He who hesitates is lost." Did you ever wonder how certain phrases would be set to music so that the music would represent the meaning of the phrase? How would you set this adage to music? Since instrumental music is by its very nature abstract, how can instruments represent specific meanings? If you weren't reading my blog or even knew the title of this movement, would you get the meaning I'm trying to convey? And is it necessary for one to be aware of the extra musical associations to enjoy the music?

I believe that these pieces would stand on their own without the titles and program notes. But for me, it is an integral part of the composition process. It makes composing easier when I am aiming to represent something specific. I have composed pieces with more abstract titles like "Sonata" where I get a musical idea and see where it leads me, but even then, I have an idea of the emotions that I am trying to represent. It was Stravinsky who said "I believe that music is incapable of representing anything at all." This statement was to foster his argument for Neoclassicism as a reaction to Romanticism. He later retracted this statement. I believe music does represent our humanity. If it didn't, it wouldn't be music, it would be just noise.

When I described movement three, I went into detail about a game of tag. This idea occurred after I completed the movement. I wanted to create a fun movement, but the specific story happened to make sense after I wrote the movement and added it to the description. The listener may come up with their own story line and that is fine.

I hope I have provided you with some food for thought. You may want to listen to movement 5 before reading any further and compare your feelings with my discussion below.

My general goal in this movement was to create a rhythmic complex movement that would involve the two instruments answering each other in the manner of a call and response. I had taken a class on free music improvisation a few months ago and we did a lot of call and response and I think this influenced me in this movement. The tuba is mainly the leader in the call and response, but in good improvisation and in this movement, each person listens to each other and either imitates the other or initiates a variation of the idea or a new idea. The message I am trying to convey is simple; you can't hesitate in this movement or it will fall apart (get lost). The complexity of the rhythms need to gel for it to work. The are little pauses throughout, but those are built in.

To add variety to the straight call and response, measures 9-15 have both instruments playing together. I liked this section so much, that I used again with slight variation towards the end. The tonality is fairly static, mainly built around G and D, but there is so much rhythmic interest, that tonality serves as a stabilizing force.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/adages_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Friday, July 23, 2010

Adages for Violin and Tuba Movement 4

"Every cloud has a silver lining" is the basis for movement 4. The adage is very easy to understand as it simply tells us to look for the good within our trials and tribulations. But sometimes we need help in order to find the good, so the idea of a prayer setting came to mind.

The movement is mostly in 3/4 with a few meter changes to 2/4 and 4/4 to add a little variety. It begins with a two measure introduction for tuba alone that hints of the varied meter that will be used again later in the movement. In measure 3, both instruments begin the prayer in harmony with only minimal counterpoint during the sustained notes. The harmony alternates between minor and major portraying both sadness and hope. Measures 12-16 contain wandering chromaticism and the ties over the bar lines that disguise the 3/4 meter. This section represents the person being lost and trying to find his way. By measure 18, things settle down again as a variant of the opening ten measures occurs. The ending also reinforces the minor and major modalities once again showing hope within the sadness.

As I am writing, I find myself being influenced by some ideas about book writing that I heard and read about, as I am also trying my hand again as an author, this time a story about camping with our two cats. The ideas are by Tom Bird. Tom emphasis getting more into the right brain and allowing the ideas to flow without allowing the left brain to be too judgmental. While I already compose that way, I found that I am relying more on my ear to tell me what comes next and I really listened to it and wrote down what it was desiring without questioning it. To my surprise, what my ear was telling me had even more unity and variety than what my left brain would have created. Of course, I still needed to refine a few spots using both my left and right brain after the movement was complete, but what resulted seemed to have a higher level of perfection than some of my other works. All this fits in well with the "Inner Game" concepts of Tim Gallwey and Barry Green, with whom I had taken workshops. It was nice to experience the joy of free-flowing creativity that one does not always have when composing. If you are a composer or performer who struggles with being freely creative, I encourage you to pursue the offerings of the above mentioned names.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/adages_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Adages for Violin and Tuba Movement 3

For my third adage to represent with music, I selected "Time flies when you are having fun" or as Kermit the Frog might say, "Time's fun when you are having flies." The first thing that came to mind when reading this adage was the similarity between it and a musical scherzo. The scherzo is at a fast tempo and is usually light and humorous, or in other words, fun. After composing the movement, I envisioned children playing a game of tag with their relentless energy, teasing and taunting, and twists and turns.

I chose the 6/8 meter because of its division of three parts to each beat, which gives a feeling of rolling forward. A playful violin melody with the tuba harmonizing with a short note on each beat is used to begin the movement. In measures 5-8, there is a sudden shift of tonality as if the children are trying to avoid being tagged. In measures 9-14, the violin and tuba alternate phrases suggesting that the person who is "it" cannot catch up with the one he wants to tag. The music becomes louder and more accented in measures 15-22, as the teasing and taunting begins. The violin plays double stops that contain dissonance and the tuba responds with short notes as if sticking his tongue out. Measures 23-37 is a repeat of the opening material but with the violin and tuba parts exchanged as we have a new person as "it." The violin also plays pizzicato for additional variety. The taunting and teasing returns in measures 38-45 with a slightly different harmony in the violin double stops. The closing measures have the violin and tuba chasing each other again but with a little more silence between the phrases towards the end as the children's energy is fading. The last note is the children collapsing on the grass from shear enjoyment.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/adages_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Adages for Violin and Tuba Movement 2

The second adage that I gave a musical treatment is "absence makes the heart grow fonder." This adage suggests both longing and love. After selecting a slow tempo with five beats to a measure, I began with the violin playing double stops of perfect fifths. This open sound, along with its inversion of the perfect fourth create a hollow quality that was perfect for representing longing. The tuba enters at the end of the second measure with a lyrical melody, that also expresses longing because of the descending intervals at the end of the phrases. In measures 9-12, the violin and the tuba share a love duet before returning to a variation of the longing section. The last four measures is an exchange of endearments as the lovers sign off until the next communication.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/adages_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Monday, July 19, 2010

Adages for Violin and Tuba Movement 1

I have received a commission from Marcy and Kenyon Wilson to compose a duet for violin and tuba for a premiere at the Southeast Regional Tuba and Euphonium Conference being held in Chattanooga, TN March 10-12, 2011. One evening, as I was trying to fall asleep, the idea of using adages for the movement titles popped into my head. The next day, I googled "adages" and printed a list of 70 to choose from. I then narrowed the list down to six that seemed to suggest musical treatments. I'll keep you in suspense as to what the six are and will reveal them as I write about them here.

The first one I chose was "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." Since the theme of this adage in envy, I decided to have the tuba imitate the violin as if copying the movements and actions of someone who is admired. Yet the message of the adage is that we should be happy with who we are and find our own special uniqueness.

The imitation during the first nine measures is two measures apart as if the tuba is wary to follow the violin too closely. Beginning in measure 10, the imitation becomes a measure apart as the tuba gains confidence. In measure 19, the violin begins a new idea with pizzicato, as if sensing that it is being followed and wants to distinguish itself as being different. The tuba is now only two beats behind and its staccatos don't exactly match the violin pizzicato. At the measures 26-30, the tuba finds its own voice, first by repeating three notes that violin did not do, and then taking off with a boisterous melody of its own. The violin is at first dismayed that it is no longer the leader and inserts pizzicato exclamations. In measure 31, the violin returns to the opening melody expecting the tuba to follow, but it does not. The violin keeps interrupting itself as if looking back over its shoulder to see where the tuba is until it completes its melody. The tuba then comes in on the last measure with its own idea that illustrates its new-found independence.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/adages_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Joplin rags arranged for Reed Quintet

The last of my projects for the Hartt School Reed Quintet is an arrangement of three Scott Joplin Rags. Because these are so short, I was not as concerned about resting each of the musicians as I was in the Bach Orchestral Suite arrangement. My major focus was to achieve a variety of instrumental colors.   It is very easy to transcribe a piano composition by giving the melody to the top instrument and so on down through the score. What is more challenging is spreading the melody among all the instruments and then adjusting the voicing to accommodate the displacement of the melody. The result is more fun to play and to listen to. When you listen to the arrangement, notice all the different colors I was able to achieve with the five instruments.

As with the Bach arrangement, I also adjusted articulation and dynamics to fit the wind ensemble. These are fun pieces that will definitely have great audience appeal.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/joplin_rags_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Transcription of Bach Orchestra Suite No. 1 - Bourrées and Passepieds

I approached these last two movements in a similar manner to the other movements i.e. being sensitive to resting players, adding some dynamics, adapting the orchestration, and battling with articulation as the edition of the score I am using, which I believe is what Bach wrote, is very inconsistent. 

In the Passepieds, I went back to using the soprano saxophone because the melody in the oboe during the second Passepied has no breathing places. By using the soprano saxophone, I was able to alternate the melody every four measures and allow the oboist and saxophonist a chance to catch his/her breath.

The second Passepied uses the melody of the first Passepied in the strings while the oboes play an obligato over it. The articulation in the string part was more consistent so I used that articulation for the first Passepied.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/bach_orchestra_suite_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Transcription of Bach Orchestra Suite No. 1 - Menuets

Transcribing Bach's music has given me even more appreciation for this great composer. His music is great not only because he has divine inspiration, but also because his music achieves perfect balance between strong harmonic progression and melodic interest of the individual parts. His music is unified through the use of repeated motives, yet has variety because the motifs are subtly varied. Even in these simple Menuets, Bach creates interest varying his melodic motifs and with subtle shifts in articulation and orchestration.

I kept the alto sax in the instrumentation and used the clarinet on the melody when I wanted to give the oboe a rest like in the first section of Menuet I, and marked the dynamics f the first time and p the second. I rest the bass clarinet during the second section of Menuet I until M. 18, where I rest the oboe instead for four measures. Here I use terrace dynamics to build from mp to mf and finally to f where the oboe comes back in. Menuet II was originally written for all strings at a p dynamic level, so the oboe rests the entire time.

I found the articulation in Menuet II interesting as the slurs do not always line up between parts. It seemed as though Bach was trying to emphasize the two note step-wise motif by slurring it, but it wasn't always consistent. I perceive his intentions as creating a subtle counterpoint using articulation and encourage the performers to emphasize these differences so that they do not sound like mistakes.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/bach_orchestra_suite_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Transcription of Bach Orchestra Suite No. 1 - Forlane

I find it interesting how each movement of this orchestra suite presents its own challenges for transcription. In the Forlane, the challenge was the continuous eighth notes in the 2nd violin and viola parts. There was simply no place to allow the wind players to breathe. I could have omitted some notes and inserted rests for places to breathe, but I opted instead for dividing each line between two instruments and overlapping the parts by one note to assist with continuity.

Since I needed more alto than soprano instruments, I had the saxophonist switch back to alto saxophone. The clarinet and saxophone alternate every measure on the violin 2 line. The bass clarinet and bassoon alternate every measure between the viola line and the bass line. Even though both these instruments are playing continuously, the bass line has places to breathe. In the second section, the alternation becomes two measures at times as the viola line got too high for bassoon.

Once more I added dynamics and articulation to assist with interpretation. The first section is f first time through and p the second. The second section uses one 4 measure f-p echo phrase and one 1 measure f-p echo phrase. Since constant eighth note pattern stops during four measures near the end, I used the last echo phrase as a place to change orchestration to allow the oboist its first rest during this movement.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/bach_orchestra_suite_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Friday, June 25, 2010

Transcription of Bach Orchestra Suite No. 1 - Gavotte

As you can see, I'm rolling along on the transcription. I approached the Gavottes in a similar manner as the Courante. I needed to adjust the appearance of the repeat signs because I wanted a different instrumentation on the first repeat and repeating to the first full measure and the use of first and second endings made the notation clearer. I went back to the repeats in the middle of the measure for the other repeated sections. The D.S. has the pick-ups to Gavotte I written out before the D.S. By the way, the D.S. does not occur in the playback of the file.

Another thing that I had to deal with was interpreting Bach's articulation markings, or maybe I should say this edition's articulation markings as I have no way of knowing for sure whether they were actually Bach's. It is during Gavotte II where the markings are unclear. Most of the time, two eighth notes are slurred. Sometimes, there is no slurring and other times four eighth notes are slurred. Was this a mistake or is there a reason for it? When the four eighth notes are followed by a half note, I perceived this as the main motive which I hear as being more separated, therefore no slurs looked and sounded correct. The four eighth note slurs are the ones I question the most as I cannot find a reason for the articulation change from two slurred. I decided to leave the notation as it appeared in the score and let the musicians decide if they feel all the articulations should match. The last articulation concern was the two same pitch quarter notes that are slurred in the bassoon part. This did not make any sense at all, so I changed it to two staccato quarter notes which seems to fit with what is going on around it.

I adjusted the dynamics in the first repeated section of Gavotte I to create an loud-soft echo phrase. The Gavotte II is marked piano and is essentially a trio of oboe, soprano sax, and bassoon with occasional insertions by the strings or in this case, the clarinet and bass clarinet.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/bach_orchestra_suite_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Transcription of Bach Orchestra Suite No. 1 - Courante

The Courante was much easier to transcribe than the Overture because it was shorter and less technical. I was able to do what I originally intended for the Overture in the Courante, i.e. using the soprano saxophone to enable the oboist to rest. The Courante was four voices throughout as the two oboes were in unison and doubled the 1st violin. I gave the bass line to the bassoon, the viola part to the bass clarinet, the 2nd violin to the clarinet, and divided the 1st violin part between the oboe and soprano saxophone.

My biggest challenge was to find the most appropriate places to switch between oboe and soprano saxophone. In the first section, I just made the switch at the repeat. I also added a dynamic change on the repeat, from f to p. In the second section, I made the switch on the 2nd beat of M. 17. I felt this is where the phrasing felt natural and also worked as another dynamic change for variety. I had everyone play from the eighth note pick up to M 22 to the end at a forte dynamic to end the movement with strength.

Bach's score has very little in terms of articulation. There are a few slurs that I preserved. I added a few slurs of my own on some rapid notes and trills. I also added the style description of Stately as all the remaining notes should be performed with a slight separation.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/bach_orchestra_suite_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Friday, June 18, 2010

Transcription of Bach Orchestra Suite No. 1 - Overture completed

I have completed the Overture and made one major change from what I posted last time. I found that I really needed another alto voice instead of the soprano voice so I changed the soprano saxophone to alto saxophone. In doing so, I had to re-score the first thirty five measures, but the change was worth it as it enabled me to keep everything within range and to rest each of the instruments more often.

I toyed with the idea of bringing the piece down a step to Bb major as the alto saxophone enters the altissimo register at one point and the bass clarinet gets into its upper register frequently. If I brought
the movement down to Bb, the bassoon would be at the bottom of its range a few times. I decided to hold off making this decision until I do the other movements as I would like to preserve key relationships between movements if at all possible. I also want to see how the quintet members feel about this transcription.

I did not change my thinking regarding articulation, dynamics and resting the musicians and hopefully the reader can see my consistent approach regarding these elements.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/bach_orchestra_suite_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Transcription of Bach Orchestra Suite No. 1 - Overture

Hello readers,

I have been busy of late doing several arrangements. Some have been fairly simple in that I have been taking some of my brass trio arrangements and converting them to a woodwind trio of flute, clarinet and bassoon. I did this at the request of Susan Maxwell, Instructor of Bassoon at Kansas State University. She plays in a trio of violin, clarinet and bassoon and the woodwind trio instrumentation adapts well for her group and is more common for potential sales of the transcriptions.

My latest project is doing several arrangements for the Hartt School Reed Quintet. This an excellent group of graduate students consisting of oboe, saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, and bassoon. The first piece I am working on is the Bach Orchestra Suite No. 1.

Since the instrumentation of the original is two oboes, bassoon and strings, I decided to use a soprano saxophone for one of the oboe parts as it will blend well with the oboe. Once I decided on the exact instrumentation, I had two other major problems to consider. The first is adapting the articulation for the instruments. I decided to leave the slow sections unmarked and just used Maestoso as a tempo indicator to suggest a detached, slightly accented style. I used two slurred and two tongued for the sixteenth note patterns in the fast section and slurred the two sixteenths into the next eight for that pattern. At this tempo, this simplifies the articulation for the wind players and is very idiomatic.

The second problem was to allow the musicians time to breathe and rest. Most of the Overture is in four parts even though there are seven different instrumental parts. The five instruments in the quintet enables me to rest someone every once in a while. My challenge was to keep everyone in a good sounding range if I rested someone. The instrumentation I chose has basically three soprano register instruments and two bass register instruments. Both the clarinet and the bass clarinet could be used for the viola line which is mainly an alto register instrument. For the slow section of the Overture, I used the clarinet for the viola line and doubled the bass line in the bass clarinet and bassoon. In measures 10 & 11, I was able to rest the oboe for a few beats by giving the bass clarinet the viola line. An oboist will have the most endurance problems in this instrumental combination as he/she needs to time to exhale the stale air in his/her body since so little air goes through the reed while performing.

At measure 18, the Allegro section, I have the soprano sax playing the first entrance, the clarinet playing the second entrance, the bassoon playing the third entrance (viola) and the bass clarinet playing the fourth entrance (bass line). This works well until measure 24 where the viola line became too high for bassoon. Here I brought the oboe back in and shifted everyone up a part and it gave the bassoonist a chance to rest.

When the piece becomes a trio at measure 29, I use the soprano saxophone for the 1st oboe part, the oboe for the second oboe part and the bassoon for the bassoon part. I marked the trio sections mp as opposed to the tutti sections as mf to help create the needed contrast. Both the clarinet and bass clarinet gets a little rest here. The only one who hasn't rested much is the soprano saxophone and I'll keep that in mind as I move forward.

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into making and effective arrangement. For now, I left the key as it was in Bach as it seems to work well regarding range and transposed key. If needed, I can change it to another key later.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/bach_orchestra_suite_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Partnering with Performers

As artists, most of us are aware of the delicate balance that exists between being true to one’s art and meeting the desires of our audiences. However, these two philosophies need not be in opposition to each other. I feel that is important for all of us to create ways to unite these goals as the perpetuation of quality music depends upon it.

Being a composer, I often envision myself being in the middle of the traditional composer-performer-audience paradigm, instead of at the beginning. I am always looking for ways of how I can meet the needs of performers to help them communicate with and excite their audiences. As a result, I choose to invest all my profits from the sale and performance of my music and recordings into various programs I have designed to help the performer reach out to their audience with both new music and custom arrangements.

I invite all performers to visit my website at http://www.cooppress.net to look at our grant programs and free offerings as an example of some of these possibilities. Our programs assist performers with commissioning, recording, custom arrangements, and fundraising for non-profit organizations and schools. We would love to hear your ideas for anything else you think we could do.

I also encourage other composers to consider partnering with performers to help them reach their audiences and I hope that all performers will examine how working closely with a composer can benefit both their own musical development and that of their audiences. There is nothing more stimulating to an audience than hearing a piece of music for the first time and having the composer present to share insights into the creative process. In my opinion, it should a part of every program presented.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Art of Composition

I wrote this article for my Co-op Press Newsletter and thought I'd reproduce it here for those of you who do not receive the newsletter.

Dr. B

I have recently finished taking a course on North American Native American Art through the Yavapai College Osher Life-long Learning Institute where our teacher, John Acker, shared a definition of art as “combining what has come before into something new”. Immediately, I started to apply this definition to music and recalled a discussion that occurred on the Orchestra List News Group where it was pointed out that at many colleges and universities, potential composition students are not accepted because they believe in melody and tonality. It seems as though, beginning with the mid-twentieth century and continuing in our academic environments, newness is revered over sound artistic practices. As a result, anything that is rooted in music of the past is often rejected.

To illustrate this, I’d like to summarize two articles that appeared in the Music Educators Journal during the 1980s. In his article, “From Sound To Silence: The Classical Tradition and the Avant-Garde”, Robert Ehle states that there are two underlying basis of Western classical tradition; symbolic nature (program music, nationalism, etc.) and conscious craftsmanship. He later states that the downfall of the Western classical tradition is that the quest for new ideas without old associations has led to the abandonment of music as sound and the emphasis on music as pure idea. Roland Nadeau, in his article “The Crisis of Tonality: What is the Avant-Garde?”, illustrates Ehle’s points by pointing out that Schoenberg eliminated tonality, Bruitism (composition with noise) eliminated pitch, melody & harmony, electronic music eliminated traditional instruments and their players, Aleotoric music eliminated traditional form, and Cage eliminated composed sounds with 4’33”. Is the next step the elimination of the audience itself and is that already happening?

The discussion on the Orchestra List News Group illustrated that there are many composers writing music today who have not abandoned the traditions of music in order to create new and vibrant compositions. I highly recommend that every musician and music appreciator read Jon Winsor’s book “Breaking The Sound Barrier: An Argument for Mainstream Literary Music”. He gives credence to the definition of art that I heard in my art class and points the way towards a future of music composition that can create refreshing music without abandoning what has come before us. If you have a bias against all new music, please seek out these composers and give them a try. You will be glad you did.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Odds and Ends

There are times when a composer does a lot of other things other than compose and this is one of those times. Since completing "Arizona Centennial Overture", one of the things I have been doing is transcribing some of my brass quintet and trio arrangements for woodwind quintet and trio. I feel there is a call for this repertoire and for the most part, these works adapt fairly easily. I also have been taking a transcription I made of Dvorak's five-movement Serenade for Strings for tuba/euphonium ensemble and converting it for brass quintet and then eventually woodwind quintet. This project is more difficult because I originally condensed the ranges to fit the tuba/euphonium ensemble and now I need to expand them.

Another project I am working on is adapting some of the duet compositions and arrangements I made for oboe and tuba, so that my wife and I have something to play together, so they can be played by any instrument. This has been a challenge because it is difficult to fit all the various ranges with one version. I am still working on how to do this without changing the sound of what I originally conceived. It is a work in progress and I'll let you know how I solve the problem if and when I do.

I find that my arrangements sell better than my compositions and it is through those sales that I am able to support the other projects my publishing and recording companies are involved in. I enjoy arranging and it is often a mental break from composing because I need to hold less in my head during the process.

I am still tidying up and adding things to my revised website. About two months ago, I moved by site to hostbaby which is connected to cdbaby and is designed with musicians in mind. Through this site, I am able to send html emails to my mailing list which contains over 500 names an easily target the subscribers by their areas of interest. I also get to list my CDs at cdbaby for free so it has turned out to be a real bargain as well as a convenience. If you haven't visited my website to see my creative marketing ideas, go to  http://www.cooppress.net

As you can see, a composer often spends much time doing things other than composing. One must be creative in finding ways to distinguish themselves and must also be aggressive in marketing. I strongly urge all musicians to purchase and read David Cutler's book "The Savvy Musician". This book has been the driving force behind my recent efforts in marketing my compositions and arrangements.

Please let me know if any of these ideas are useful to you.

Dr. B

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Words and Music

And ever against eating cares
Lap me in soft Lydian airs.
Married to immortal verse
such as melting souls may pierce
untwisting the chains that tie
the hidden soul of harmony.

Several things are occurring simultaneously that prompts me to write this post. First of all, I am adding pages to my website for my vocal compositions where I provide the poetry that I used as the text. As I am doing this, I am reminded once again about the power of words to express ideas and emotions. Words are all around us, and I am hard pressed think of anything else that influences our lives more. But as Milton suggests in the above poem, when words are combined with music, their power is exponentially increased. This is one of three quotes from a book I found at a used book sale called “A Musician’s Yearbook, 1895”. I set three of these sayings to music in 1979 and I am providing a link to the setting of the Milton poem for you to hear. The Millersville University Choir under the direction of Walter Blackburn performs it. See if you think the music enhances the meaning of the words.

However, words by themselves can certainly communicate ideas very effectively. Since I moved to the Sedona area of Arizona, I am in the process of re-reading J. A. Jance’s Ali Reynolds mysteries that are set in our area. I had read them a few years ago, but that was before I moved here. Now all the places that are describe are very familiar and my enjoyment is increased. They also reminded me of why I started this blog. In the first of the series, “The Edge of Evil”, Ali Reynolds starts a blog called cutlooseblog.com. In it, she addresses and number of things that were going on in her life and her readers responded with comments, therefore making the posts more meaningful. I thought that I might have something to contribute to the music world by writing my blog. I am hoping I am providing a useful service to composers, performers and appreciators of music. I can tell from looking at Feedjit, that my blog receives many visitors, but I get very few comments.

After re-reading the Jance book, I added a statement to by blog’s description that says “comments and questions will not posted unless you grant me permission.”
I would not have posted without your permission anyway, but maybe this statement would make you feel more comfortable with communicating with me. Here is a list of items you may wish to share your opinions on:

My composing process
If you are a composer, do you experience the same things? Do you do things differently? My readers and I would like to know what works for you.

If you are a performer and/or an appreciator, do my comments aid you in interpreting music in general? Do they help you understand the subtleties of music?

About my music
Do you like or dislike what I have composed? Are the examples helpful? Do you understand what I am saying? Is there anyway I can improve the blog to serve your needs?

About the subjects
Are there things that you would like me to address that I’m not already addressing?

Let’s all use the power of words to grow in our understanding of music through this blog. I know that it helps me understand what and why I did what I did when I compose. I hope that it has the same impact on you. The blog exists so that we can all learn from each other. Please join in the experience.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Challenges for the Future

I have included this article in my free Co-op Press Monthly Email Newsletter and I thought I'd post it here for those of you not receiving the newsletter. If you would like to receive the newsletter, you can sign-up here.

Challenges for the Future

Someone on the TPIN Newsgroup recently referred readers to an article by Dyske Suematsu called "Why Americans Don't Like Jazz". The article raised a number of interesting observations regarding how people listen to music that can be applied to classical music as well as jazz. To read the entire article, go to http://dyske.com/paper/778. Here is a summary of the articles salient points:

1) Most people listen to music for the lyrics rather than the music.
2) Appreciating and enjoying instrumental music requires abstract thinking.
3) Abstract thinking takes effort on the part of the listener.
4) Music videos have relegated music to a background role.
5) For young people, music has become mostly a visual experience.
6) As a result, most people cannot turn off their own thoughts and allow abstract art to affect their emotions.
7) Because instrumental music is abstract, listeners cannot understand its intricacies. They need lyrics to tell them what and how to think.
8) If a song has any musical substance, it can be played on a piano and still deliver its message. Consider today's rap music regarding this statement.
9) To reverse this trend, instrumental music should be the dominant teaching in our schools for both the classroom experience and performing groups.

It is my opinion, it is the responsibility of all of us to do whatever we can to see that the art of music survives. We must be active in preserving music in our schools and communities, especially in an economic downturn. Classroom music, vocal and instrumental music programs should be encouraged not to water down our art by emphasizing whatever is already popular in order to achieve recognition. At the same time, David Cutler, in his book "The Savvy Musician", suggests that classical and jazz artists need to rethink the way they present their art to their audiences. In other words, can we as artists do something different that will reach our audiences where they are and bring them to where we want them to be? The future of music may depend on it.

Additional Resources On This Subject

Cutler, David. The Savvy Musician - This book contains great ideas on how to market and present music in order to reach a larger and more diverse audience.

Brandon, Sy. A Composer's Guide To Understanding Music - This book has activities that can help non-musicians gain ability and understanding to more actively listen to music.

Dr. B

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Arizona Centennial Overture Completed

Last week I finished creating pdf files of all the scores and parts, made mp3 files of the audio playback of each version, and exported the Sibelius files for hearing the music played with MIDI instruments while the music scrolls across the screen. I put all this on a CD along with notes about the different versions and program notes and mailed it to the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Therefore, I have officially completed the terms of the commission.

I have also contacted the AZ Commission on the Arts asking whether they have thought about offering the premiere rights to a specific organization and whether they plan on tracking performances. I have not heard back from them yet regarding this. I would like to attend as many performances as possible and would also be interested in conducting the work. The time frame is that the music would be made available for free beginning July 2010 and performances will be scheduled between September 2011 and September 2012. The actual Arizona Centennial is February 14, 2012. So even though the creation of the piece is completed, my involvement in the project is just beginning.

I am including the program notes below so that my readers can have a summary of what I attempted to do to represent the culture and history of Arizona in this seven minute composition. It was a pleasure to have created this piece and I look forward to my future involvement in the project.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/aco_blog.html.

Dr. B

Arizona Centennial Overture

Sy Brandon

Program Notes

Arizona Centennial Overture was commissioned by the Arizona Commission on the Arts to help celebrate Arizona’s centennial. The overture pays tribute to the unique blend of the various cultures that had a part in shaping Arizona into what it is today. This six and a half minute composition is divided into three main sections.

The first section begins with fanfares that announce the celebration. After thirty seconds, the introduction fades into music that pays tribute to the pioneers that migrated to Arizona. The music has a rustic quality reflecting the pioneering spirit of the ranchers, farmers, miners, and merchants who came to Arizona seeking a better way of life. This section is intended to be inclusive as it is impossible to represent each culture individually in a short musical composition.

The second section pays tribute to the various Native American cultures that are a large part of Arizona’s history and its present way of life. Flutes and percussion instruments are used in the beginning of this section to represent the Native American respect for nature. This quiet section evolves into a ceremonial dance that increases in intensity. Towards the end of this section one hears fragments of the “pioneer” melody as these culture come together.

The third section is influenced by Mariachi music to recognize the Hispanic influence in Arizona. The first part uses an original rollicking tune with four beats to the measure over syncopation. The second part contains a lyrical melody with three beats to the measure accompanied by instruments playing accents that create the Hispanic sounding grouping of six notes into three groups of two alternating with two groups of three. A brief ending using the fanfares of celebration interspersed with figures from the Native American and pioneer sections brings the work to a rousing close.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Arizona Centennial Overture - Chamber Orchestra Version

Today, I completed the last of the four versions of Arizona Centennial Overture. This version is for a reduced orchestra of 2 each of the woodwinds, 2 Horns, 2 trumpets, one percussion and strings.

Compared to the full orchestra version, there is no separate piccolo part, so I had flute 2 doubling on piccolo. The piccolo is essential in the Hispanic section, so I revoiced some of the upper woodwind parts to balance better without the flute 2 part that has been replaced by the piccolo. Flute 2 plays piccolo from the Hispanic section beginning at measure 125 to the end. When essential lines were scored for just piccolo and two flutes, I used two flutes and an oboe instead.

The Horns were not affected much by the reduction of 4 to 2 Horns as Horns 3 & 4 were already optional in the full orchestra version. Losing the three trombones and tuba had a much greater impact. Since a lot of the lines were in three part harmony like the opening fanfares in the Horns and trombones, I needed to find another instrument to join the two Horns that remained. In most instances, it was the first bassoon that filled this role. Some of the tuba lines went into the string basses. Other essential trombone parts were already doubled by other instruments.

The loss of a third trumpet was mostly accommodated by putting the 2nd trumpet part in the 2nd oboe and having the second trumpet play the third trumpet line. The third trumpet line was often too low for the oboe and this was my solution. I think trumpets and oboe blend well. In fact, I often use a muted trumpet to play an oboe line if an oboe is not present, as the timbre is similar.

Losing three percussionists also had a big impact. I combined some of the essential percussion parts into the timpani part. The timpanist plays timpani at the beginning through measure 13, then switches to the cover the wood block/temple blocks in the Pioneer section. During the Native American section, the timpanists plays tom-toms and the rattle is covered by muted trumpets flutter-tonguing. The musician returns to timpani from 107 to the end.

When I was bemoaning to my wife about the loss of some of the percussion color, especially in the Hispanic section, my wife suggested adding optional percussion parts that could perhaps be played by orchestra board members or community leaders who read music, but don't play a chamber orchestra instrument. So I added two optional percussion parts that take minimal technique, but require counting ability. This way the rattle, claves, tambourine, bass drum, and guiro could be included in the chamber orchestra version. It still works without them, but they add a nice color.

My next task is preparing the score and parts for download and working with the Arizona Commission on the Arts regarding performances. I'll share more on this in my next post.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/aco_blog.html. If you would like to receive notifications of new blog posts, sign up to follow this blog.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Arizona Centennial Overture - Orchestra Version Completed

I have completed the full orchestra version and I am pleased with how the piece transcribed from the band version. Even though I lost some band instrument colors, the addition of the strings were a very welcomed addition. I especially like using pizzicato in several section. I used it for the down beats and off beats in the pioneer section, as a rhythmic and tonal filler in the Native American section, and for part of the bass line in the Hispanic section.

Native American section pizzicato

The biggest change in the Native American section is the transfer of the harmonized woodwinds at M. 85 to the strings. The homogeneous blending of the strings makes these passages rich and meditative at the same time. I also took the euphonium solo that occurs at measure 108 at put it in the cellos and 1st bassoon. The bassoon gives a little edge to the mellow cello sound.

In the Hispanic section, the 3/4 melodic line at measure 141 lent itself very well to the violins, as this is a color in Mariachi music. To add variety when the melody repeats, I harmonize it with cello instead of second violin. The winds are also doubling this melody and harmony.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/aco_blog.html. If you would like to receive notifications of new blog posts, sign up to follow this blog.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Arizona Centennial Overture - Orchestra Version

I have begun work on the orchestral version of Arizona Centennial Overture in between doing a major revision to my website. Since it has been a while since I have posted and I have finished scoring the Fanfare and Pioneer section, I thought I'd share some thoughts about the process of making this transcription.

My first consideration was which instruments from the band will not be used in the orchestra version. In the woodwinds, I will not be using 3rd clarinet, alto and bass clarinet, and saxophones. In the brass, the euphonium will not be used. I tend to write for standard orchestra because extra instruments means hiring more musicians and that places an extra burden on the resources of orchestras. It is often challenging enough to get performances without this additional consideration. The string family gives me an entirely different color to work with. My goal was not to just put the missing wind parts in the strings, but to create a valid orchestration as if I was writing for orchestra originally. This means re-scoring the wind parts as well. Additionally, I want to make the strings a focal point of the composition and not just an after thought.

While I am working on the score, I have left all the band instruments in place and just muted the ones that I will be omitting so that I can hear the balances during playback. The score is quite cluttered right now, so I will wait until I finish the transcription before posting audio and visual examples. The first section is the most difficult to re-score because it uses a wide variety and combination of wind colors. The strings are mostly used as reinforcement of the already existing wind lines. Both pizzicato and arco are used depending upon the line. The violins and violas take the clarinet trio part and measure 50. The absence of the 3rd clarinet has been one of the biggest challenges because in the band version the homogeneous sound of three clarinets needs to be broken up into a heterogeneous sound of two clarinets and another instrument. At measure 50, I just omit the clarinets and use the homogeneous sound of the strings. I also took the oboe solo at measure 39 and made it an oboe duet by adding a harmony part and then doubling it in the violas and cellos. This makes a nice rich sound.

Re-scoring the Native American section is next.

Dr. B

Monday, March 1, 2010

Arizona Centennial Overture - Easier Band Version

I have completed the reworking of the more advanced band version into an easier band version. The instrumentation is the same. The ranges, particularly brass and saxophone have been adjusted, most of the time by taking passages down an octave. The technique has been simplified as follows:

Fanfare and Pioneer Section where quarter =120
- Four sixteenth notes are changed to eighth and two sixteenths or two sixteenths and an eighth. Below is an example where I divide the four 16ths giving two 16ths and an 8th to some instruments and 8th and two 16ths to others. The techniques is easier, but the sound still comes out like four 16ths. The first example is from the advanced version followed by the easier version clarinet parts at measures 9 & 10.

In the above example, I omitted the slur from the two 16ths to the 8th in the 2nd and third clarinets by accident. The advanced version uses the two slurred, two tongued articulation to make the technique more characteristic for woodwinds. In creating the easier version, slurring the two 16ths into the eighth is more characteristic. This is an illustration of why one cannot proofread their work often enough. It has now been corrected in the score.

- Some high woodwind trills are taken down an octave.
- Other woodwind parts are taken down a octave to avoid more awkward fingerings.
- Some brass parts are taken down an octave to make range and endurance easier.

Native American Section
- Flute solo simplified by removing most grace notes, changing the quintuplet to four 16th notes, and replacing 32nd notes with 16th note figures. The example below shows the advanced version followed by the easier version.

- Tom-tom figures simplified by replacing 32nd notes with 16th note figures.

Hispanic Section and Ending where quarter = 132
- Four 16ths replaced with 8th and two 16ths.
- Some brass parts are taken down an octave to make range and endurance easier.

The next step is to review the parts for formatting and any errors that may come to light. Then it is on to creating the orchestral versions.

To see and hear what I have discussed in previous posts, go to http://www.cooppress.net/aco_blog.html. Audio and visual examples are provided to illustrate my discussion . Since blogspot does not have the capability of including audio examples, this link will navigate you away from this blog. To return, use your browser's back button or click on the Composing Insights link on the audio page. You will have two choices to hear the audio examples. The first uses a free Scorch plug-in that will enable you to see a scrolling score as you listen to the audio example. The second is an mp3 file of the audio only. The complete score is now transposed. If you would like to receive notifications of new blog posts, sign up to follow this blog.