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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.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Festival Finale for Clarinet Choir

I am composing a piece for the Millikin University Clarinet Choir called Festival Finale. It will be a one movement work in three sections, fast - slow - fast. Dr. David Cook plans to use the work as part of the final concert at Millikin University's Clarinet Day to be held on Saturday, February 22, 2020 and he wants a piece about 8 minutes long.

The excerpt below is the first part of the composition. The fast tempo is reflective of the joy of the day and is written in what is referred to as the other major mode, the Lydian mode. This mode shares characteristics with the major mode but differs by having a raised fourth degree. This gives this first section a slightly exotic flavor.

After a short introduction, the first theme appears in the Eb Clarinet. At measure 14, the theme is now stated in a one measure canon between the 1st Bb Clarinet and Eb Clarinet. At measure 24, a more lyrical theme makes its appearance in the 3rd Clarinet accompanied by the 1st Bass Clarinet. The second part of this theme moves to other instruments not so much for a change of color, but to spread the solo lines among the entire ensemble. At measure 40, the second theme repeats this time with more counterpoint and a tonic pedal in the 2nd Bass Clarinet.

At measure 56, the first theme returns but in a different key.  A sudden shift of tonality at 73 introduces a contrapuntal triplet idea that seems to be a third theme but transforms itself into an accompaniment for another statement of the second theme beginning at measure 87. This section builds in a similar manner as the first appearance of the second theme but with more triplets and other slight variations. Measure 119 is the final appearance of the first theme before it transitions to the slower section.

On June 26, 2019, I completed this composition. I am leaving the above video of the first part in order for the viewer to compare what I thought was the first part in May to what the first part actually became once the other parts were added. The reason for the difference is that when the first part was written, I was anticipating about a 3 minute slow section. However, as the piece progressed, the slow section felt complete at around two minutes. I then composed the last section that also lasted about two minutes so I thought I would recapitulate the opening musical material to round out the piece. When I played it back it felt very anti-climactic. The opening section is light and joyful representing  fun and friendship while the third section has a more intense and serious tone representing excitement. I then decided to enlarged the opening section by essentially repeating the material from measures 6-54 with some slight variations (key change at 55 and noodling line in Eb and 1st Bb clarinets at measures 73-105).

The slow section begins at measure 190 and represents a sadness that the festival is over and saying goodbye to new friends. It hovers between phrygian and aeolian modes. Because of the lack of a leading tone, modality is established more by repetition of pitch and length of notes and that is why the modality is vague. Adding to the vagueness is the alternation of 2/4 and 3/4 meter. The first statement of the theme is at 194 in the 1st Bass Clarinet. It continues at 202 in the 1st Bb clarinet. M. 210 is a contrasting section with 2 and 3 part imitation before returning to the main theme at 218. M 226 begins a written out repeat of the AABA. 258-260 fades into the sudden start of the third section.

I chose the locrian mode for the first part of the last section that is in 6/8 meter. I like its unsettled flavor due to the tritone between 5 and 1. After a brief introduction, the 1st Bb clarinet states the theme unaccompanied at m. 267. 275 is a canon between Eb Clarinet and 1st Bb Clarinet. At 283, the Bass Clarinet has the theme with accompaniment in the upper instruments. 291 is a canon between 2nd and 3rd clarinets. Measure 300 begins a contrasting section that mimics the unevenness of the meters from the 2nd movement. The music is now in the phrygian mode. 324 ushers in a dramatic section that is back in the locrian mode. 346 returns to the phrygian mode material for a final push to the end. The coda leads towards the ending in aeolian mode.

Below is the entire score.

Your comments are always appreciated.

Dr. B