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Wind Ensemble


On the Beach at Night (for baritone, violin and wind ensemble) 2006  Works for Voice 
Double Concerto (for violin, clarinet and wind ensemble) (2004)
Agnus Dei (for violin, clarinet and wind ensemble) (2004)
Crónica del último año en la vida de un mexicano (2000)

American Interlude (1999)
Variations On A Theme of Benjamin Britten (1996)
Fanfare (for 8 trumpets) 1988
  


Double Concerto (for violin, clarinet and wind ensemble) [On the ‘Missa Pro Defunctis’ ca 1500 of Pierre de La Rue] (2004)  [29’]

The Double Concerto for Violin, Clarinet and Wind Symphony was jointly commissioned by Elsa and Walter Verdehr and the Michigan State University Wind Symphony.  It is freely based upon four of the movements of the ‘Missa Pro Defunctis’ by the 16th century Franco-Flemish master Pierre De La Rue, and makes extensive use of techniques with which he, along with his contemporaries, would have been quite familiar.  These include ‘paraphrase’ – free variations of a familiar melody called ‘cantus firmus’ (in this case the Gregorian chant melodies of the Latin Requiem Mass); ‘parody’ – a technique where a composer borrows lines, complete textures or even entire sections of a predecessor’s work; and ‘troping’ – a technique in which new music is added to a pre-existent composition.    Though the idea for this work dates from my graduate school years at the University of Southern California, and from my studies with musicologist Gilbert Blount, it took a near tragic incident involving my six-year-old daughter Eryn and, shortly thereafter, the unexpected passing of my life long friend Terry Graves, to provide me with the appropriately contemplative frame of mind to dwell upon such a somber subject.  Though deeply serious the work is neither dour nor depressing – at least this was not my intention! – rather, it is offered as a celebration of both the lives of my daughter and that of my dearest friend. The fourth movement, Agnus Dei, was actually the first movement that I ‘heard’ – the progenitor of the entire work really –  and is dedicated to my daughter Eryn, a flourishing, typical American first grader. Unlike the other movements, which ‘map’ back to the De La Rue score with a high degree of faithfulness, this one is much freer and, perhaps, more intuitive, and is much closer to ‘paraphrase’ than ‘parody.’ The Agnus Dei may be performed as an independent movement.

 

Agnus Dei (for violin, clarinet or English Horn, and wind ensemble) (2004)     [11’]

Instrumentation: 3 Fl. (3rd dbl. Picc. and Alt. Fl.)/2 Ob./E.H./3 Cl.in B-flat/

2 Bass Cl. (1 with low C extension or double Contra Alto Cl. in E-flat)/Contra Alto Cl. in E-flat/2 Bsns./Contra bsn. (Dbl. Bsn)/3 Tr./2 Flugelhorns/4 Hns./3 Tbn./

2 Euph./2 Tubas/Perc. 1: Timp.., Mar., Lrg. Sus. Cym., Crot., Xyl., Vib., Tam-tam, Glock./ Perc. 2: Mar.., Vib., Glock., Bass Dr., Tam-tam, Lrg. Sus. Cym., Crot., Lrg. Tom-tom/Vln. Solo/Clar. Solo/Pno./Dbl. Bass

Published by Peer-Music.

Program notes and performance history:

I. Introit – Flowing and lyrical – Senza misura quasi cadenza – With gentle motion [7’] 

II. Kyrie – Always as fast as possible – Majestic and passionate [4’ 20”] 

III. Sanctus – Dramatic and forceful – Più mosso-very intense – Quasi doppio in movimento – Passionate and majestic – Gently undulating – Passionate and majestic  [7’ 25’] 

IV. Agnus dei – Slow and solemn-chorale like – Quasi cadenza-quasi l’istesso tempo – With increasing passion – Radiant and ecstatic-always dying away-sempre legatissmo [11’]

 

Crónica del último año en la vida de un mexicano (2000)   [21']

Instrumentation: 2 Picc.(Optional: 1 doubles Pan Flute or Sopr./Alto Ocarina)/4 Fl. (3 and 4 dbl. Picc. and Alt. Fl.; 4 dbl. Bass Fl.)/2 Ob./E.H./4 Clar. in B-flat (all dbl. Whistles, Toy flutes or Ocarinas)/Bass Clar./Contrabass Clar. or Contrabassoon/2 Bsn./Contrabassoon (opt.)/Sopr. sax. (dbl. Alto Sax.)/Alto Sax./Ten. Sax. (dbl. Alto Sax.)/Bari. Sax. (dbl. Alto Sax.)/6 Tr. in B-flat (Optional: 1 dbl. Picc. Tr.)/6 Horns (Optional: reduced scoring for 4 Horns available)/3 Ten. Trom./Bass Trom./2 Euph./3 Tubas/Solo perc: Guiro, Huehuetl [Optional: Taiko substitution], Rattle, 4 Standard Timp./Mar./Crot./Wood Block (or Temple Block), Large Tam-tam/6 Perc., 1: Guiro, 5 Standard Timp., Rattle, Crot., Large Tom-tom, 3 Triangles, Mar.;  2: Guiro, Med. Slit Drum, Rattle, Tam-tam, Large Slit Drum, Bass Drum, Glock., Mar., Crash Cym.;  3: Guiro, Bass Drum, Tam-tam, Rattle, Vibr., Medium Slit Drum, Stones, Small Susp. Cym., Glock., Mar., Crash cym.;  4: Guiro, Timp. (can share with Perc. 1), Rattle, Glock., Small Susp. Cym., Mar., Tubo (or Maracas), Tom-toms, Large Susp. Cym., Crot.;  5: Guiro, 4 Tom-toms, Rattle, 3 Susp. Cym., Glock., Vibr., Xyl., Rainstick, Mar.;  6: Guiro, Large Slit Drum, Rattle, Vibr., Glock., Mar., Tam-tam, Sand Paper Blocks, Xyl., Finger Cym., 3 Susp. Cym., Triangle/ Piano/Dbl. Bass

Commissioned by the St. Cloud State University Wind Ensemble and premiered with faculty soloist Terry Vermillion under the direction of Richard K. Hansen, St. Cloud, Minnesota, February 10, 2001.

Published by Peer Music Classical

Program notes and Performance History:

The ‘Chronicle of the last year in the life of a Mexican’ was commissioned and premiered by the St. Cloud State Wind Ensemble under the direction of Richard K. Hansen.  It was begun in early August and completed by mid November, 2000.   It was commissioned as the intended centerpiece of a tour of Mexico, which, though planned for this past winter, failed to materialize due to the political uncertainties surrounding the recent and historic change in government.  By the time the news reached me that the tour had been indefinitely postponed, it was too late to change course, as I was deep into the piece, and had grown fond of its materials and the direction it was taking.  So this oddly titled work (a play on Gabriel Garcia Marques’ Chronicle of a Death Foretold) inspired by an Aztec sacrificial ritual, was premiered in the depths of an exceptionally brutal winter in St. Cloud, Minnesota, a medium sized mid-western town overlooking the frozen Mississippi River.  There was much irony in this, though, in a sense I was relieved not to have experienced what I am sure would have been a nerve-wracking first performance surrounded by native Mexicans, in a concert hall standing on the grounds that once supported the great capital city of the Aztec empire!  As it turns out, the piece was warmly received both in St. Cloud and, subsequently, in St. Paul.  I thought it had enough promise that upon my return to Los Angeles I decided to expand the first part – a highly unusual form of revision for me – and it is this expanded version that I decided to publish.

Crónica was directly inspired by the moving narrative that follows.  I was aware during its composition that there were several ways the music could ‘map’ to this narrative.  Cognizant of the fact that the work was not to have been about death, but instead its contemplation, anticipation, and deferral, I chose to depict the sacrifice at the outset.  I wasn't particularly interested in any melancholy or violent depictions of the sacrifice of a young warrior, so I thought to get that out of the way immediately and avoid wallowing in death images.  Ultimately, I wanted to build towards an image of transcendent, triumphal sacrifice.  The piece falls into two broad sections of approximately equal length: the first (inner sacrifice), largely in slow tempos and flat-side minor modes, the second (outward or public sacrifice), in very fast tempos and sharp-side major keys.  My primary intention was to ‘chronicle’ in abstract, musical terms, the subjective awareness of the passage of time.  In that context it mattered little whether the death came at the beginning or the end, if at all.  After all our minds possess the effortless capacity to juxtapose images from the past, present and future, and music has, among all the arts perhaps, the unique capability to vividly evoke this liquid perceptual illusion.  In this fluid state of mind, I was hardly concerned with a literal chronological accounting of the events cited in the narrative, and ultimately succumbed to the temptation to include a post contact found object as an apocalyptic vision of the future. The selection of the particular piece I paraphrased, En un portalejo pobre, a 16th century ‘Romanse a 3’ by a converted Indian composer named Gaspar Fernandes (as transcribed by Robert Stevenson), was made for no other reason than its simple beauty and sensual qualities.  As sung by the brass, it resounds above the din in the penultimate section of the work

Despite the fact that the work explores many neo-mesoamerican colors, especially in the large percussion group, I made no conscious efforts to sound Mexican or Aztec. After all, the Mexican turf has been well covered, and, though there are many vivid contemporaneous accounts of Aztec music and dance during the post-contact period, we may never know precisely how pre-contact music sounded.  Still, scholars have studied the instruments themselves, and from this we can know the sorts of scales and sounds that were available.  Many of my materials were drawn from the charts of ocarina tunings found in Robert Stevenson’s Music in the Aztec and Inca Territories.  I was fascinated, among other personal revelations, to learn that the Aztecs had developed flutes capable of sounding three or four notes at a time.  Having several times played through a series of such chords given in Prof. Stevensen’s book, I couldn’t help but notice how musical the sequence was, and decided at a very early point to use these chords (almost literally) as the basis for several of the brass fanfares featured in the second part of the piece.  The ominous drum solo near the beginning was my realization of a contemporaneous post-contact description of an Aztec call.  It is the closest I could get to an authentic Aztec ‘found object’.

Epilogue

“At the festival of the sixth month they sacrificed a handsome youth whose body was perfectly proportioned…They selected for this purpose the best looking among their captives…and took great pains to choose the most intelligent…and one without the least physical defect.  The youth chosen was carefully trained to play the flute well, and taught…how to walk about as do the nobles and people of the court…The one chosen for the sacrifice…was greatly venerated by all those who met him…He who was thus chosen to die at the next great feast went through the streets playing the flute and carrying flowers…On his legs he wore golden bells which rang at every step he took…Twenty days before the feast…they married him to four beautiful maidens…Five days before the sacrifice they worshiped the young man as one of their gods..[After four days of preparation, they at last] took him to a small and poorly decorated temple which stood near the highway outside the city…Upon reaching the foot [of the temple] the young man mounted the steps by himself.  As he mounted he broke one of the flutes he had played during the past year of his prosperity; on the second step, another, and so on successively until he had broken them all, and had reached the summit.  There he was awaited by the priests who were to kill him, and these now grabbed him and threw him on the stone-block.  After seeing him pinned down on his back with feet, hands, and head securely held, the priest who had the stone knife buried it deep in the victim’s breast.  Then drawing the knife out, the priest thrust one hand into the opening and tore out the heart, which he offered at once to the sun…Thus ended the life of this unfortunate youth who had for an entire year been petted and honored by everyone.”

Sahagún, 1547

( Music in Mexico: a historical survey by Robert Stevenson, New York: Crowell, 1952, p.23.
 
 

American Interlude  (1999)   [13’]

Instrumentation: 2 Picc./3 Fl./2 Ob./English Horn/3 Clar. in B-flat/2 Bass Clar. in B-flat/E-flat Contra Alto Clar./B-flat Contrabass Clar./2 Bsn./Contrabassoon (dbl. Bsn.)/Sopr. Sax./Alto Sax./Ten. Sax./Bar. Sax./6 Tr./4 Hrn./3 Trb./Bass Trb./2 Euph./2 Contrabass Tubas/Pno. (Dbl. Pipe Organ – optional)/6 – 7 Perc./1 – 2 String Basses

Commissioned and premiered by the Michigan State University Wind Symphony, conducted by John Whitwell, College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) North Central Division Regional Conference, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, February 22, 2000.

Published by Peer Music Classical

Program Notes and Performance History:

American Interlude was commissioned by the Michigan State University Wind Symphony and completed in December of 1999.  It comes two years after the first of the composer’s ventures in this medium, Variations On  A Theme of Benjamin Britten, which was given its premiere by the UCLA Wind Ensemble under the direction of Thomas Lee.  Of the new work the composer writes:

"American Interlude is not a programmatic work, despite its title.  In fact, the title was nearly an afterthought – or mid-thought, as it turned out  - chosen at a point in the piece where I found myself hearing a quodlibet of very famous American songs.  Having begun with this confession, it is perhaps ironic that the quotations are not meant to be apprehended, despite the fact that each is played rather loudly on brass instruments!  In my earlier work, Variations On A Theme of Benjamin Britten, I moved across a wide range of expressions, with many contrasting tempos and moods.  In this piece, however, I sought to explore a simpler sort of expression, often in an understated manner, and exclusively in slow tempos.  Traditional virtuosity is eschewed, although those who appreciate the difficulties of performing on wind instruments, will marvel at the seamless playing of the low winds and brasses, who are often required to hold a single note for a very long time at a soft dynamic without ruffling the surface, or the exposed six part trumpet ‘chorales,’ perched in dangerously high tessituras, to name but a few passages which truly test the artistry of the players.  Having just finished a large work for chorus, I found myself writing through the ‘filter’ of choral textures, and, as you will hear, the middle part of the piece makes extensive use of wordless singing."

American Interlude was commissioned by the MSU Bands, honoring Kenneth G. Bloomquist, director emeritus of Bands for his 23 years (1970-1993) of inspired leadership and service.
 
 

            Variations On A Theme of Benjamin Britten (1996)     [20’]

Instrumentation: 4 Fl. (3 and 4 db. Picc. – 3 optional)/ 2 Ob./Engl. Hrn./ 3 Clar. in B-flat (3 dbl. E-flat Clar. – optional; 1,2,3 dbl. A-clar. – optional)/ 1 Bass Clar./ 2 Bsn./Contra-bsn./ 3 Fl. Off-stage/ 3 Clar. Off-stage/ 4 Tr. in B-flat Off-stage/ Sopr. Sax./ 2 Alto Sax./ Ten. Sax./ Bar. Sax./ 4 Tr. in B-flat (4 dbl. Flugelhorn – optional)/ 4 Hrn./ 2 Ten. Trb./ Bass Trb./ 2 Tubas (1 dbl. Euph.)/ 6 Perc./ Pno. (or Harp)/ Off-stage SATB Chorus

Requested and premiered by the UCLA Wind Ensemble, Thomas Lee, Director, Schoenberg Concert Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles California, March 5, 1997.

Score and parts available from the composer. P.O. Box 117, 23705 Vanowen Street, West Hills, CA 91307

            Conductor’s score:                       $62.00
            Study score:                                 $31.00
            Score and parts rental:                $500.00

Program notes and performance history:

     Variations On A Theme of Benjamin Britten
     Theme (‘Queen’s Hymn’  from ‘Gloriana’)
     Variation 1 Calm
     Variation 2 Dancing
     Variation 3 Ominous, surging
     Variation 4 Boisterous, manic alternating with
     Variation 5 Senza misura, lontano
     Variation 6 Majestic, exotic
     Variation 7 Casual, dancing
     Variation 8 L’istesso tempo, more intense – sensual
     Variation 9 Very slow – dark, heavy
     Variation 10 Even slower – hymn-like
     Variation 11 Presto (Quasi fugue)
     Variation 12 L’istesso tempo ma stringendo (Like a crazed tango)
     Variation 13 L’istesso tempo
     Variation 14 Furiously then gradually calmer
     Theme
     Variation 15 Coda

The Variations On A Theme of Benjamin Britten is based on a choral theme from Britten’s opera Gloriana. Although the opera is set in the later years of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), it was commissioned by the royal family of Great Britain for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and premiered before an invited audience on June 8, 1953.  By all accounts the premiere was a complete failure, and the opera languished in a kind of purgatory until quite recently.  I was very taken with the work on a first hearing, and quickly resolved to make an original work for wind instruments based upon the piece I have come to think of as the ‘Queen’s Hymn’.  The thirteen note theme, in 5/4 meter, winds its way through all seven notes of the D-major scale in a more or less systematic manner: a-d-f#-b-g-c#-b-a-c#-g-f#-e-d.  Although quite lyrical, its disjunct contour and austere rhythm, unfolding in steady quarter notes, reminded me of a twelve tone row.  Using many of the techniques of classical serialism, but with tonal materials, I had great fun in concocting increasingly wilder permutations of Mr. Britten’s theme, which is always close at hand, but not always easy to find!
 

Text

"Green leaves are we
Red rose our Golden Queen,
o crownéd rose among the leaves so green!"

Text by William Plomer

 

Fanfare (for 8 trumpets) 1988 [4’]

Commissioned and premiered by the USC Brass Ensemble, the Fanfare, in its original scoring for brass quintet, and under the title ‘Music From the Tower,’ was premiered in 1988 at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Published by Ian Krouse Music.

            Score and parts: $18.00

Duration: 4’

Program notes and performance history:

The Fanfare was originally the first of two movements for brass quintet called Music From the Tower.  Though I decided after the premiere to withdraw that version, I liked the first movement enough to reconstitute it as the ‘Fanfare for 8 Trumpets,’ an ensemble more perfectly matched to the heterophonic texture than the original mixed group.