2015 in Review

As the year closes out (there’s all of six hours left as I start writing this), I thought I’d go through some highlights from the year.

  1. I did a massive overhaul of the site starting in September.  The site is now much easier to navigate and find information that was previously buried in long posts.
  2. The highest traffic month was November with just shy of 12,000 views.
  3. Total year views is just over 71,400.
  4. The most searched term that hit the site was “contrabass trombone range.”
  5. The most read post, by far, was my interview with Richard Bobo on his Subcontrabassoon project.
  6. The number 2 post was “Why I Dislike Adler’s Orchestration” (nothing like a little vitriol to get things riled up) followed by “Basset Horn vs. Alto Clarinet.”

Plans for 2016

The instrumentation sections are all but done.  There are a few areas that need touching up and a few that need to be added.  The big goal will now be to add a whole area on actually orchestrating for various bands and wind groups.  I’m currently debating whether or not to put this on the site or have this in a published book.

Symphony (1) for Double Reeds

Over the years, I’ve started 7 symphonies, but, to date, this is the only symphony I’ve completed.  In some regards, it’s the least symphonic of all the symphonies I’ve attempted, as it is a single long movement and scored entirely for an ensemble of double reeds.

I wrote the piece fairly quickly in perhaps six weeks’ time.  The impetus was visiting the International Double Reed Society’s annual convention in 2006.  I was surrounded by double reed players of all calibers.  A year earlier, at the convention, I heard a live performance of Grainger’s rarely performed Hill Song 1 for a large double reed ensemble (and a few Piccolos for good measure) and was stuck by the sororities that came from the ensemble.

While at the conference, I had the opportunity to play and hear many of the more obscure members of the oboe and bassoon families and decided to include them all in a single work.

The work has multiple sections that function like separate movements but all flow together.  Each section has a different character: pastoral, romantic, dance-like, agitated, etc.

Instrumentation

  • F Piccolo Oboe
  • 4 Oboes
  • Oboe d’Amore
  • 2 English Horns
  • Bass Oboe
  • Alto Bassoon
  • Tenor Bassoon
  • 4 Bassoons
  • 2 Contrabassoon

(Performing edition)

(General MIDI edition with score)

 

Adagio for Winds and Organ

In 2004, I was finishing my undergrad work.  At the same time, the long-time director of bands at the university, Ray Lichtenwalter, was retiring.  As a tribute to him, I composer my first work for band.  It is in the style of a Brucknerian adagio with long phrases and a slow development.

Originally, I planned on making this the slow movement of a larger symphony.  However, that symphony never came to fruition (though two other movements do exist).

This does show some of my earliest ideas about wind band orchestration such as grouping the Flügelhorns with the tuba ensemble, a strong contingent of low clarinets, and prominent double reeds.

  • 2 Flutes,
  • 2 Oboes
  • English Horn
  • 3 B-flat Clarinets
  • Bass Clarinet
  • Contra-Alto Clarinet
  • Contrabass Clarinet
  • 2 Alto Saxophones
  • Tenor Saxophone
  • Baritone Saxophone
  • 2 Bassoons
  • Contrabassoon
  • 4 Horns
  • 2 C Trumpets
  • 2 Tenor Trombones
  • Bass Trombone
  • 2 Flügelhorns
  • 2 Euphoniums
  • Bass Tuba
  • Contrabass Tuba
  • Organ.

Der Totentanz

In the fall of 2003, a friend and I decided to have a challenge.  We were both to write a composition using only the lowest of the woodwinds.  My friend never completed his project (in fact, I don’t even know if he ever started!), but my work is one of my favorite chamber works.

I was curator of the school’s Contrabass Sarrusophone and Bass Saxophone, while my friend had all the school’s Contra Clarinets.  Getting a performance would be doable.

Ultimately, the work was score for the following ensemble:

  • Bass Clarinet
  • Contra-Alto Clarinet
  • Contrabass Clarinet
  • Tenor Saxophone
  • Baritone Saxophone
  • Bass Saxophone
  • 2 Bassoons
  • Contrabassoon/Contrabass Sarrusophone

On the day of performance, the Bass Saxophone was unusable.  I had always planned on using a Sarrusophone instead of a Contrabassoon (I personally played the part).

After the performance, the conductor, who was the school’s long-time director of wind studies said it was the absolute hardest piece of music he had ever conducted due to the ensemble.

I further took the score and a recording of the performance to a masterclass with the composer David Maslanka, who in turn gave it the best praise of any work of mine to date:

“Had John Williams used this ensemble, Star Wars would have been a better movie.”

Sadly, I cannot find the recording of the piece from it’s 2004 performance.

I have also done some revisions to the work including altering some of the instrumentation so that it can be played by 2 Bass Clarinets, Contrabass Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone, 2 Baritone Saxophones, and 3 Bassoons.

Der Totentanz is now for sale at Sheet Music Plus:

http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/der-totentanz-digital-sheet-music/20270561?ac=1&_requestid=82818

Black Mass

Black Mass is a composition I wrote back in 2006 as I was finishing grad school.  It is for a large wind ensemble and 5-octave handbell choir.

The concept of the work is not a Satanic black mass, but rather a metaphor for anything negative in our lives.  The piece starts off solemn, full of bad news.  It moves towards anger.  Then it becomes solemn and chant-like.  Again, the anger return, this time with violent fireworks that break into a dance of mocking.  Finally, after a huge cluster cord, D major breaks through with peace and acceptance.

I’ve kept this piece, for whatever reason, somewhat hidden.  Perhaps, it is due to the inclusion of the old hymn “Ein Feste Burg” at the end.  I am not religious or spiritual by any means, and this work does have spiritual implications.  Perhaps, there’s also the fear of blacklash from people who are spiritual who could see the term “Black Mass” as evil and unholy.  For better or worse, I leave it here as an example of one of the most complex works I’ve ever written.

Instrumentation

  • Flutes 1 and 2
  • Alto Flute = Flute 3 = Piccolo
  • Bass Flute = Flute 4
  • 2 Oboes
  • English Horn
  • Bass Oboe
  • E-flat Clarinet
  • B-flat Clarinets 1-4
  • Bass Clarinet
  • Contra-Alto Clarinet
  • Contrabass Clarinet
  • Soprano Saxophone
  • Alto Saxophones 1 & 2
  • Tenor Saxophone
  • Baritone Saxophone
  • Bass Saxophone
  • Tenor Bassoon
  • Bassoons 1 & 2
  • Contrabassoon
  • Horns 1-6
  • Piccolo Trumpet
  • C Trumpet 1 = D Trumpet
  • C Trumpets 2 & 3
  • Tenor Trombones 1-3
  • Bass Trombone
  • Euphoniums 1 & 2
  • Tubas 1 & 2
  • Timpani
  • Xylophone = Crotales = Tom-Toms
  • Marimbas 1 & 2
  • Vibraphone
  • Chimes = Anvil/Break Drum
  • Percussion 1-3
    • 4 Tam-Tams, 4 Suspended Cymbals, Bass Drum, Tenor Drum, Wood Block, Bullroarer, Temple Blocks, Large Chains, Claves, Guiro, Bass Pans (Steel Drums)
  • 5-Octave Handbell Choir
  • Piano

Finale MIDI performance (note, all non-pitched percussion has been turned off)

Concerto for Contrabassoon and Orchestra

This concerto was conceived for the redesigned Contrabassoon by Guntram Wolf, the Contraforte.  I had just received my own Wolf Bassoon and wanted to show Herr Wolf a modicum of gratitude for my wonderful instrument.

The work is based on the Peruvian folk songm “El Condo Pasa.”  At the time, I was performing a wide variety of South American orchestral music.  The vivacity of the melodies and rhythms was intoxicating.  There was a pure simplicity in them.  I wanted to recapture some of that in this piece.  Yet, I knew it was for the Contrabassoon, the utter antithesis of singable melodies.

The Contrabassoon concerti that had been written are almost all in a hyper-modern style and can only be accessed by performers of the highest caliber.  My concerto, while still technically demanding, I feel is more accessible.  The biggest challenge that the work presents is the expanded range found on the Contraforte.  The range for the soloist is just shy of four octaves (from A0 to G-sharp4).

Instrumentation

  • Scored for 3 Flutes (3rd=Piccolo and Alto Flute), 2 Oboes, English Horn, 2 A Clarinets, Bass Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, 2 Bassoons, 3 B-flat Trumpets, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Tuba, Timpani, Marimba, Crotales, Vibraphone, 2 Chimes, Celesta, Harp, Mandolin, Strings
  • Solo Contrabassoon (Contraforte)

A potential performance is scheduled for sometime in 2016

Buy the sheet music here.

Romance for Bass Saxophone and Strings

This is the second of my works for solo saxophone and string orchestra.  This work features the rarely heard Bass Saxophone.  The inspiration came from the moving solo for Contralto in Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky.  

It is by no means technically challenging, but requires the delicacy of the finest operatic bass singer.

This work has had one performance, but the circumstances were not ideal.  The day before the performance, the entire bell of the school’s Bass Saxophone fell off.  It was beyond a quick repair, so I quickly transcribed the whole thing for Bassoon.  The final performance was less than satisfactory.

I’m still waiting to hear a great performance of this work.

Video is a computer generated version.

The Romance is now for sale at Sheet Music Plus

For Bass Saxophone and strings:

http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/romance-for-bass-saxophone-and-strings-digital-sheet-music/20267269?ac=1&_requestid=81810

For Bass Saxophone and Piano:

http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/romance-for-bass-saxophone-and-strings-piano-reduction-digital-sheet-music/20267431?ac=1&_requestid=81842