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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, January 28, 2010

Arizona Centennial Overture - Pioneer Section

Today, I will be discussing the "pioneer" of this overture. Audio and visual examples will be provided to illustrate my discussion . Since blogspot does not have the capability of including audio examples, a link is provided that 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 score is in concert pitch.

The "pioneer" section pays tribute to the early settlers (ranchers, farmers, miners, and merchants) who paved the way for Arizona to become a state. I tried to create a rustic feel to this section. I did that through the use of open harmony (chords in thirds, fourths, and fifths), sparse orchestration, and the use of wood block in the percussion to imitate horses' hooves.

The phrasing of the basic idea of this section can be called a contrasting double period. There are four short phrases. The first two ask a question (antecedent phrases) and the last two answer it (consequent phrases). The first and third phrases are different, therefore it is contrasting. Each phrase is interrupted by the downbeat/upbeat accompaniment figure that also uses the wood block horse-hooves sound. Also notice the shifting meters to create variety.

The next eight measures uses the same thematic idea, but this time it is harmonized. The accompaniment figure is also varied to create contrast and interest.

Beginning at M. 39, a new, lyrical melody in a constant 4/4 meter is introduced in the oboe over the downbeat/upbeat accompaniment. When the oboe line sustains, other instruments play a phrase from the basic idea of the last 16 measures. The lyrical melody is a three-phrase group. It is similar to a blues melody in that it has three phrases and is 12 measures long, but that is the only similarity. The sustained lyrical melody contrasts nicely with the shorter, interrupted phrases that precede it. At M. 50, the melody is now in the clarinets and is it harmonized and embellished. At M. 61, the lyrical melody incorporates the rhythm of the shorter, interrupted phrases to give this section more jauntiness. This section is more thickly scored and contrapuntal as fragments of the short melody are used when the main melody has a longish note. At M. 71, this section begins to wind down by fragmenting the melody and using the accompaniment alone for several measures. It cadences in G minor to set up the next section that will pay tribute to the Native Americans of our state.

I worked very carefully on the orchestration of this section. Having played tuba in an orchestra where counting rests is the main activity instead of playing notes, I try to give everyone in the group something interesting to play. I am also thinking ahead to the versions I need to create so that bands and orchestras from high school level on up can participate in the celebration. The third goal was to create interesting colors using the available instruments. Listen carefully to the orchestration of this section. Very rarely does the full band play together. 

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