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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.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Arizona Centennial Overture - Native American Section

Today, I will be discussing the "Native American Section" 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.

I have incorporated Native American influences into several of my compositions as I am very inspired by the music. Each time, I am faced with the challenge of making the music my own and yet retain the characteristics of their music. Sometimes I harmonize the monophonic lines or create a counterpoint to the monophonic line. For this overture, I created a monophonic flute melody that has a lot of grace notes reminiscent of bird calls (measures 78-84).

In the silences, I inserted tom-tom and rattle sounds in the percussion instruments. A guiro could be used as a substitute for the rattle if necessary. After this quiet section, a noble melody that is harmonized with a combination of chords in thirds and fourths is introduced. The phrases of this melody are broken up by a return to sections of the flute and percussion "bird call" idea (measures 85-103). Measures 103-106 brings back the solo flute and percussion. At measure 107, the tempo changes to Moderato. Tom-toms and timpani are used to created an ostinato and a new monophonic, chant-like melody is introduced in the baritone horn. At measure 112, this melody repeats with trombones doubling it and a contrapuntal flute melody reminiscent of the early flute melody is added. There is an accellerando at the end that leads into the new Hispanic Influence section and a change of key.

When my wife listened to this section, she raised the question of what to do when I transcribe this for chamber orchestra where only one percussionist is likely.  This got me thinking of how I can use the rest of the orchestra to do percussion sounds. In the Pioneer Section, the horses hooves are very important and I thought I could do that by having the string instruments knock on the wood body of their instruments. In the Native American Section, I can use the timpani for the tom-tom sounds and I could use muted trumpets flutter-tonguing for the rattle sound. I even incorporated the muted trumpets flutter-tonguing into the band version.

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