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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.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Amphibians for Band Movement I

This blog post is about a composition that I am writing for the Band For Today Honor Wind Ensemble. Band For Today http://www.bandfortoday.com/ provides Chicago area schools with band and piano programs and I am honored to have been commissioned by them to compose this composition. I will be attending the premiere on April 18, 2015.

I wanted to write a composition that would have both appealing titles and music for young musicians. I settled on a composition called "Amphibians" that has two movements; "Frogs and Toads" that would use croaking sounds as well as leaps and "Salamanders" that will have music representing scurrying and swimming.

The first thing I did was to listen to sounds of frogs and toads at http://www.soundboard.com/sb/Frog_sounds_audio and I was very surprised by the variety of sounds. I tried to incorporate some of these sounds in the seven measure introduction. The bull frogs are created by the low instruments a half step apart accompanied by the ratchet. The tree frog sounds appear in the clarinets and then the flutes. The use of the timpani and suspended cymbal during the introduction creates an undercurrent of night sounds.

The Allegro section, that begins at measure 8, is in 6/8 time and contains the leaping motif. This motif is made up of wide intervals like a 5th, 6th and octave. Scale-wise material surround the leaps providing contrast and there is occasional use of the bull frog sound for punctuation (section A). At measure 26, a contrasting section begins (section B). This sections uses leaps as well, but this time in a descending direction. This section ends with some chromatic lines indicating that something has disturbed the normal peace of the swamp. Measures 36-43 is a percussion variant of the downward leaps before the opening allegro material returns at measure 44 (section A). Measures 62-72 is another contrasting section (section C). It is in a major tonality with a two part canon creating a feeling of celebration. The leaping idea at the end of this section serves as a transition back to the opening allegro melody (section A). The ending is created by repeating a measure a step higher and by using the descending leaps of the B section. The overall form of the movement is Introduction A B A C A.

I decided to write a poem about the animals in each movement that can be used as a narration before the movement is played. Here is the poem for the first movement:

I. Frogs and Toads

Amphibians breathe with gills, lungs or skin
It depends upon what stage of development they are in
With four legs and a backbone they vary in size
They adapt to varied climates, that makes them very wise

First we will mention frogs and toads
They appear to be similar but have different abodes
Frogs are at home where water abounds
While toads like to live where dry climate surrounds

Frogs have strong, long webbed hind feet
Perfect for swimming and an occasional leap
Their skin is smooth and their eyes tend to bulge
More than this, I’m reluctant to divulge

Toads on the other hand have short stubby legs
They are good for walking and look like pegs
With warts on their skin that can give many a fright
But to another toad, their skin is a delight

The sounds of these creatures are quite varied
From very deep croaks to squeaks that are harried
The music you will hear represents just a few
Then it saunters and leaps like toads and frogs do

I export my Sibelius Music Notation file as a movie (new to version 7.5). I also use Noteperformer software for the sounds. These are sample sounds, but the software also includes an algorithm that reads ahead in the music and phrases the music according to context, therefore making the realization closer to live performance. I  upload these videos to youtube and embed the video for each movement. Be sure to use full screen mode for easier viewing of large scores. I hope that this technology allows the reader to have an easier experience and a more realistic performance. To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Amphibians_blog.html

As always, your comments are appreciated.
Dr. B

1 comment:

Edna Bloom said...

The sounds are very descriptive, and it looks like this creation will allow the groups to have a lot of fun crafting the aural "picture."