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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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Allegories for Flute, Euphonium, and Piano or Flute, Euphonium, and Percussion

“Allegories” is a five movement composition for flute, euphonium, and piano or flute, euphonium and percussion based upon Aesop’s Fables. The percussion version was created after the version with piano was completed. It was commissioned by and dedicated to Frank Meredith.A video of each movement was posted after it was created and I discussed each movement as well. The version with percussion appears at the end of this blog post.

The first movement “The Trumpeter Taken Captive” is a fable about how one’s actions affect the outcome. The trumpeter, who incites others to do battle, is as guilty as those who slay the enemy. After a brief introduction, the euphonium represents the trumpeter by playing battle tunes that are clearly tonal but have meter changes from 5/8 to 6/8. The flute and piano add to the excitement of the battle. The battle intensifies beginning at measure 19. The 5/8 meter, alternation between diminished and augmented chords, and flute trills add uncertainty to the outcome. The piano chord at 36 followed by the descending euphonium line indicate the capture of the trumpeter. The slower tempo at 39 leads the listener into the music at 51 where the trumpeter (euphonium) pleads his case to no avail. Motifs from the trumpet tune are recalled but at a slower tempo. Measures 69-71 represents the execution of the trumpeter. Measure 72 to the end is the moral of the story.

“The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is the basis for the second movement. The allegory is that nobody believes a liar. The flute plays a shepherd’s tune three times to represent the bored shepherd boy. Each time, the tune ends chromatically downward therefore showing his boredom. The tune also has slight variations each time. The ensemble plays excited music three times as the boy cries wolf, the first two times just to amuse himself and the section ends with chromatic laughter. After the third time when nobody responds to his cries, the flute plays a minor version of the tunes as a lament lament to end the movement.

The third movement reflects the story of “The Goose And The Golden Egg.” A golden euphonium melody accompanied by rich harmony that migrates to other instruments represents the golden eggs laid by the goose and the riches the farmer gained. The ensemble then plays greedy music beginning at measure 19. The music sounds greedy because of the contrapuntal texture. This represents the farmer scheming to try to get richer. At measure 28, the farmer finalizes his plan and kills the goose with one swift chop to the neck. The minor key lament that follows represents the disappointment in finding no more golden eggs and he has killed his rich source of income because of his greed.

A sweet dancing flute solo begins movement four appropriately named “The Fisherman and His Flute.” This short fable has the allegory of “timing is everything.” The poor fisherman expected the fish to jump out of the sea in response to his flute playing. He tries three times with no results. The silences at the end of his tune indicate that no fish have jumped out of the sea. Each time he plays the melody it has slight variations and his frustration, represented by the stronger cadences, becomes very evident. When the other instruments play a similar tune at measure 62, it represents his success when he uses his net. Measure 78 combines the successful catch (euphonium and piano) and the fisherman's frustration (flute). The fisherman says “you bloody fish, when I played the flute you wouldn’t dance, but as soon I stopped, you started up.”

The race between the “Tortoise and the Hare” is the subject of the last movement. The plodding euphonium and piano accompaniment represents the tortoise and the fast, agile flute represents the hare. The flute takes a nap in the middle of the movement and by the time the flute wakes up, it is too late to catch up with the slow and steady tortoise. The race is not always to the swift. The Lento introduction introduces the tortoise theme and the flute (hare) interjects mocking and laughing figures. At measure 9, the race begins. There are slight variations of the euphonium melody and piano accompaniment for musical reasons but the repetitiveness of the the euphonium and piano is intended to illustrate the determination of the tortoise. By the time the music reaches measure 25, the hare is well ahead and stops for a snack after which, he becomes very sleepy. At measure 33, the hare begins to yawn and is fully asleep at measure 44. He abruptly awakens at measure 63 and makes a mad dash to  the finish but arrives at the finish line a fraction after the tortoise at measure 66. The ending confirms the triumph of the tortoise.

It was somewhat challenging to create the version with percussion from the version with the piano because the piano serves both a harmonic and melodic function. The obvious choice would be to use a keyboard percussion instrument as a substitute for the piano and I did that in some of the movements, but in other movements I elected to use indefinite pitch percussion instruments. As a result of this choice, some of the harmonic and melodic functions of the piano were added to the flute and euphonium parts. I feel that both versions are equally effective. The video below is the percussion version in its entirety.

Comments are always appreciated.

Dr. B

1 comment:

Frank Meredith said...

Wonderful music, wonderfully portraying each fable. Thank you so much! I eagerly anticipate playing this for multiple audiences!