I am in the process of composing a composition for the Maxwell Trio to take to the International Double Reed Society Conference in 2012. The Maxwell Trio consists of Susan Maxwell, bassoon, Steve Maxwell, tuba and Amanda Arrington, piano. All are professors at Kansas State University.
This instrumental combination has inherent challenges stemming from the abundance of overtones present in the bassoon and tuba sound. I know from my experience in writing for tuba ensemble that dissonances sound muddy on instruments with a lot of overtones, so my harmonic style for this piece is quite conservative. So my challenge was to create an interesting piece within that restriction.
As I was composing the piece, the title "Interplay" came to me as there is a lot of counterpoint between all three instruments. I usually try to post sections of a piece while I am composing it, but with this composition I was very unsure of where things were going, and even if it was of value. I struggled because I could not find any direction or form out of what I was composing. I felt that the ideas were good and some sections were better than others, but it just did not make any sense. After stepping back for a while, I realized that I needed to add more to the opening section and after doing that, it became clearer that I was writing a sonata form of sorts.
I say "of sorts" because all the thematic material seems somewhat related so I feel that it is more monothematic than having two themes. The contrast between the themes is created more by treatment, with the first theme being staccato and the second theme being lyrical, rather than by new thematic material. Here is my analysis of the form:
1-4 - Introduction
5-27 - 1st theme
28-34 - transition
35-48 - 2nd theme
49-57 - closing theme
58-113 - development
114-168 - recapitulation
I think that gives you enough to go on without my analyzing the treatment of the various motifs. There is a lot of interplay that you will be able to hear and that, and the form is enough to concentrate on.
I think you will see what I mean by overtone rich instruments causing problems if you listen to the scorch version. You can see the score, but the sounds of the bassoon and tuba are horrible. I remember about 10 years ago purchasing Smart Music for my wife and myself. Smart Music is suppose to follow the soloist adjusting the speed of the accompaniment when the soloist plays into a microphone. But it never did. When I called the company, they said that oboe (my wife's instrument) and tuba (my instrument) are the most difficult for the microphone to recognize because there are so many overtones, the mic doesn't know what note you are playing. So I gather that the MIDI instruments playing the scorch file are inadequate because of the amount of memory needed to accurately contain all the overtones of a bassoon or tuba. The mp3 is a more realistic audio experience since it uses sampled instruments.
To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/interplay_blog.html. You can view and hear the score if Scorch is downloaded on your computer and/or listen to the mp3 file.
As always, your comments are appreciated.