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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, April 18, 2016

Three Desert Pictures Movement 3 - Monsoon

I am composing Three Desert Pictures for Frequency 49, a marvelous group of musicians from the San Francisco Bay Area. The combination of woodwind quintet and piano provides a wonderful palette of colors to represent a Haboob, Virga, and a Monsoon, which are the titles of the three movements of this work.

When I first moved to Arizona and discovered that we have a monsoon season, I was very surprised. I always thought that a monsoon was a period when it never stops raining. But after reading a definition, I discovered that it is any change in a weather pattern that brings excessive moisture to an area. That is what Arizona has during the summer when moisture in drawn into the desert from the Gulf of Mexico. It creates dramatic afternoon and evening thunderstorms with high winds, heavy rain, and thunder and lightning, bringing the desert much needed rain.

My vision for this movement was to create sections that would represent wind, thunder and lightning, and heavy rain. It is as if one were looking at a painting of an Arizona monsoon storm where one sees the entire picture and then begins to concentrate on sections of the painting that represent each of these.

The movement begins with a representation of wind by having a three-note motif in 6/8 time travel from low to high and back down in the winds and also simultaneously creating a crescendo-decrescendo effect. The motif consists of consecutive fourths where one of the fourths is augmented. The piano plays the fourths as a chord on each beat. After eight measures, the piano has the wind idea and the winds play the chord on the beat.

To represent lightning, I use a chromatic scale in the flute and oboe and a high trill in the piano. Thunder immediately follows in the form of a loud augmented chord with descending whole steps and fades away in the form of a low trill in the piano.

Heavy rain is represented by repeated staccato notes in 2/4 time, sometimes in canon and other times in rhythmic unison. Once again fourths are used both melodically and harmonically.

These three ideas are combined and developed in different ways throughout the movement, building to a climax near the end. Then the storm fades away before the movement ends with a flash of lightning.

Your comments are always welcomed and appreciated.

Dr. B

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