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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, 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Hispanic section, so I revoiced some of the upper woodwind parts to balance better without the flute 2 part that has been replaced by the piccolo.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.

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