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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, July 13, 2019

Craters of the Moon

This composition is being composed for Trio De Bois (Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon) and Piano. This is the first movement of three that are inspired by Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. It is especially appropriate during this 50th anniversary of the moon walk as the astronauts trained at this location. This movement is called Violent Past.

Much of this movement is built around the dissonant intervals of a half step and the tritone. These  intervals are used both melodically and harmonically. The movement begins with a half step trill that is answered by chords in fourths where the tritone splits the major seventh interval. The oboe and clarinet then follow with melodic versions of the tritone and half step. This introductory material lasts through measure 12 but presents most of the musical material of the movement that undergo transformations in the various sections.

In measure 13, the texture thins in order to present a melodic development of these intervals, sometimes in short canons. The sixteenth note triplets introduce a new rhythmic element. This section reaches a climax at 21.

Measure 23 brings in a contrasting section in 7/8. A melodically static rhythmic ostinato sets the tone but this idea eventually incorporates the tritone and half step. Variants of the introductory melodic ideas permeate this section. The more sustained and slurred variant is like lava oozing out of the ground. This section builds to a climax at measure 36 before starting again at 37 with even more transformations.

Measure 50 begins a further development of the material. The half step trills dominate but instead of being upward trills they are downward trills. Measure 58 develops the ostinato section. The faster tempo hints at the most violent eruption to come at the conclusion of the movement. On July 25, this movement was revised incorporating suggestions from the commissioners. I like the improvements to this movement. The video bellow incorporates the changes.

The second movement is called "Lunar Landscape" and is more evocative rather than descriptive. It creates a feeling of vastness and openness. This movement is a tribute to the 50th anniversary of landing on the moon that is being celebrated at the same time that this movement was created. The Apollo 14 astronauts trained at Craters of the Moon in 1969 in order to learn more about volcanic geology.

The movement is built around a "walking" passacaglia theme that is in the left hand of the piano. At measure five, it is accompanied by open 4ths and 5ths in the piano that later appear in the oboe and clarinet, and then in imitation between the piano and high winds. At measure 29, the bassoon plays a more melodic variant of the passacaglia theme over the original in the piano. At measure 38, the original drops out while the clarinet plays the bassoon melody and the bassoon plays yet another variant. The earlier starkness returns at measure 46.

Beginning at measure 54, further development takes place using the earlier material in new keys and combinations while gradually building in tempo and intensity. At measure 98, the opening material returns in the original key and tempo and eventually fades into the distance. On July 25, this movement was revised incorporating suggestions from the commissioners. I like the improvements to this movement. The video bellow incorporates the changes.

"Forces of Nature" is the title of the third movement. There are five natural phenomena in the park that I wanted to represent musically, The Great Rift, Lava Flow, Vents, Cinder Cones, and Lava Tubes. Each of these have a motif that is descriptive and the motifs transform and combine as the movement progresses. 

The Great Rift is represented by open dissonant harmony in contrary motion similar to shifting plates. It first appears in the piano and then the woodwinds. A half step repetitive triplet figure represents lava flow. This appears in rhythmic unison and also as overlapping phrases. 

Vents makes its first appearance in measure six but does not not get fully developed until the section at measure 74. It is represented by a rising arpeggio that resembles a diminished 7th chord. The figure diminuendos and overlaps similar to steam evaporating into the air.

My favorite motif of this movement is the cinder cone motif because it provides such contrast to the other motifs. It appears at measure 16 and consists of repeated sixteenth notes. The motif is layered from low to high and back down to low so that it creates the image of a mountain of cinder. It has a Minimalism quality and is combined with the Great Rift motif as the section develops.

The last motif to appear is the Lava Tubes motif section at measure 43. It is a stern, accented motif in the left hand of the piano and the bassoon suggesting an underground cave. To enhance the underground aspect, the right hand of the piano and the oboe have high sustained notes. These instruments then start to incorporate the lava flow motif also in the high register.

As the movement develops, the motifs transform and reappear in different orders, meters, instrumentation, and in combinations. The coda at measure 127 brings back all the motifs in close proximity.

Your comments are always appreciated and welcomed.

Dr. B