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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.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Character Pieces On The Seven Dwarfs for Bassoon and Piano

This composition is commissioned by and dedicated to Dr. Susan Gustavson Maxwell. There will be seven movements that musically suggest the character of the seven dwarfs. There are times where programmatic elements may appear but for the most part, the composition is designed to suggest the nature of each dwarf rather than tell a specific story. My outline for this work is as follows:
1. Doc - Maestoso and contrapuntal to reflects Doc's leadership and careful thinking
2. Bashful - Slow and romantic (flirty)
3. Grumpy - Slow and dissonant
4. Dopey - Fast and playful with surprises
5. Sleepy - Slow and lethargic
6. Sneezy - Allegretto with powerful sneeze-like figures
7. Happy - 6/8 fast and humorous

Videos and further descriptions of the movements will be posted as they are composed.

Movement one "Doc" is mostly diatonic with some chromaticism. In order to add variety to the mostly step-wise bassoon line, wide interval leaps have been added. Meter changes add variety to the rhythm hints at Doc's nervousness. At measure 24, imitation is added to suggest Doc's intellectual prowess. The strong parts of this movement reflect upon Doc's being the leader of the dwarfs.



The second movement is "Bashful." The slow tempo and soft dynamics reflect his shyness and his infatuation with Snow White. At measure 13, a slow to fast trill represents Bashful twisting his beard and fluttering his eyelashes as he attempts to flirt with Snow White.




The third movement represents Grumpy and is in a slow tempo. The dissonant cluster chords in the piano represents Grumpy's disagreeable nature. The bassoon's low register, frequent descending lines and multiphonic serve that purpose as well. The more flowing middle section shows another side of Grumpy. While he is disagreeable, he is always first to rescue his friends should the need arise. The repeated piano left hand grows in intensity and the syncopated piano right hand and bassoon part also add to the intensity as Grumpy comes to the rescue. The multiphonic at the end is more dissonant than the sound in this video.



Dopey really isn't dopey. He just likes having fun and playing tricks and often looks silly. Therefore this fourth movement is full of fun and surprises. The musical materials for this movement consist of leaping major 7ths, chromatic lines, and part of a whole tone scale. It is in a rondo form: Introduction, ABACA. Meter changes and different ranges and instrumentation contribute to the surprises.




The fifth movement, Sleepy, begins with the bassoon playing a slow descending line unaccompanied. Measure 4 hints at a slow yawn, but the actual yawn motif is a sextuplet that first appears in the piano at measure 6 and then in the bassoon in the next two measures. Motifs from the opening bassoon line then used to create the remaining musical material that is in free form. The yawn motif interrupts frequently throughout. Rallentandos and soft dynamics add to the sleepy atmosphere.



A big sneeze by Sneezy begins movement 6. The rising motif followed by a bassoon trill and piano tremolo that resolves to a low note represents the sneeze. After the sneeze, a faster tempo section represents Sneezy trying not to sneeze by sniffling. However, he is unsuccessful and a big sneeze occurs at the end of his attempt to control it. This sniffling and sneeze section occurs twice, although each time it is slightly different. At measure 40, an imitative section in duple meter once again represents Sneezy trying not to sneeze, but by the end of this section he thinks he is successful only to be surprised with four big sneezes in a row before admitting defeat.


The last movement portrays Happy. A lilting theme in 15/8 opens the movement and becomes the A section of a rondo (ABACA) form. The B and C sections represent Happy's fondness for jokes. The wide interval leaps at measure 9 which begins the B section is suggestive of laughter. This section is contrapuntal and modulates through several keys before ending in an outburst of laughter. The C section is very playful with its use of odd meter (5/8).


As always, comments are appreciated.

Dr. B