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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.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

American Vignettes for Brass Quintet Movement 5

During my travels, I have been using the first movement of a composition I wrote for tuba and piano to demonstrate unity and variety in music. The piece is called American Fantasy and is based on America the Beautiful. My plan for the fifth movement of American Vignettes was to do a French Horn feature using America the Beautiful and when I sat down to work on this movement, I couldn’t get the tuba and piano piece out of my mind. Maybe that was an omen because I ended up adapting the tuba and piano version for the French Horn feature within the brass quintet.

Since the Horn is the middle voice of the brass quintet, my biggest challenge was to be sure the Horn would be heard over the accompaniment in the other brass instruments. Putting the other brasses in ranges where they could be played soft enough for the Horn to project alleviated most of this concern. The Horn range was also as concern as it plays in the low/middle register a lot where it does not project very strongly. I considered changing key, but decided to leave things where they are, otherwise the upper register Horn parts would get too high.

There was one section that recurs often where I changed from Horn solo to ensemble playing. It is the figure in measure 12 and similar measures. The Horn melody just got lost in the brass harmony so the first trumpet now has the melody.

I also have a concern over whether the trumpets can sound ethereal in measures 6-8, as it is in a high tessitura at a soft dynamic. I believe strong musicians can play with the type of control required to pull this off.

Jazz influences both sections of this movement. The slow section uses jazz harmony constructed of enlarged chords and substitute chords. It also uses syncopation not present in the melody of America the Beautiful. The second section is a jazz waltz. A motif from America the Beautiful becomes the basis for the minor jazz waltz theme. A lot free material follows the motif, but this idea occurs a lot and is used in imitation later in the movement. Longer segments of America the Beautiful also occur throughout the movement.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/american_vignettes_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

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