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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.

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 rank├Ęd 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