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.

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