Posts Tagged ‘bassoon’

…with the Spirit of the Desert

Sunday, October 18th, 2009
Chisos mountains of Big Bend National Park

Chisos mountains of Big Bend National Park

On November 7th 2009 the SFCCO will be performing a composition I wrote back in 1993-94. It is a violin, bassoon and piano trio I call …with the Spirit of the Desert. This work is inspired by Big Bend National Park in Texas, a place I used to go camping every year in the early 90’s. The park can be thought of as having three natural divisions; the river, the desert and the mountains, thus why I chose a trio. Big Bend National Park lies in the northern third of the Chihuahuan Desert. The name Big Bend refers to the great U-turn the Rio Grande River makes there in Southwest Texas. Prehistoric Native Americans made their homes there at least 10,000 years ago and perhaps earlier. This area has been occupied many different Native Americans groups over the years. The La Junta, Chisos, Jumano, Mescalero Apaches and Comanche all made the homes in Big Bend. The Native Americans said that after making the Earth, the Great Spirit simply dumped all the leftover rocks on the Big Bend. Even though Big Bend is a desert it is full of wild life, you frequently see jackrabbits, roadrunners, golden eagle and coyotes. The composition is a seven-movement work, where the first three movements are played continuously as are the last four. Each member of the trio has it’s own solo movement, entitled “Alone”. The natural beauty of the area and its Native American past inspire other four moments. When camping in Big Bend where always awoken by spectacular sunrises,  the first movement “In the Sunrise with the Spirit of the Desert” represents that. The end of the first movement flows into the first of the solo movements which a this point is for violin. This solo second movement sets up the third movement, “Dancing the Dance of the Eagle…” This movement reminds the listener of a Native American dance and soaring golden eagles in the desert sky. The end of the third is the first break in the composition, the fourth movement is the bassoons solo movement which leads into the powerful fifth movement. “Two Braves Warring…” puts man vs. nature (and Spirits) as the desert is can be a difficult place to live. The rains and water finally come after this movement end on the last of the solo movements begin, this time for piano. After a long day in the sun the last movement takes place in the cool of the night as “Coyotes Howling at the Moon…”

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Concerto for Musician

Sunday, May 9th, 2004

         I finished writing a new guided improvisation orchestra piece called Concerto for Musician. Concerto for Musician, what does that mean? Unlike traditional concerto, which are usually for a particular instrument, Concerto for Musician is for a multi-instrumentalist. The first movement is for a soprano instrument, then second movement is for an alto instrument and the last movement is for a bass instrument. At the world premiere the “musician” was me, the composer. I played the first movement on flute, then second movement on alto saxophone and the third moment on bassoon.

        Each movement has a feeling or sound, which is reflected in the movement’s title. The first movement is entitled: Cosmological. This movement has a vast sound with flares of energy and twinkling. The first movement tapers in to the second movement, which is entitled: Mechanical. This movement has a fast pulse and sounds like many mechanisms working at once. Aqualogical is the title of the third movement, which has an organic and liquid sound. One can hear the depths and breadth of the ocean in this movement.
        Concerto for Musician uses an unusual compositional technique: guided improvisation. As apposed to free improvisation where everyone does what ever they hear or see fit during the music, guided improvisation uses some rules to limited the sounds and directions so the composer can get the sound and feeling he is after. Standard Jazz music could be considered guide improvisation, but the “rules” in Concerto for Musician are different then the rules of Jazz music. Some of the techniques used in this work are based on Larry Ochs’ “Radar” techniques. The soloist follows some rules as well, but is basically aloud to do want he/she wants. The soloist is encourage to use extend techniques like multi-phonics (playing more then one note at a time) and sounds on the instruments that are appropriate to the movement. The SFCCO premiered this piece (Program Notes) on May 9th, this performance would not be possible if it was not for the Subito grant I was awarded from the American Composers Forum.

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