Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ten of a Kind

My first band piece since high school, and I benefitted from Michael Colburn's advice "don't write a band piece. We have lots of band pieces. Write your music, for band." You need ten virtuoso clarinetists in the same room, which doesn't happen all that often. As Beff noted, "even the alto clarinet part is virtuosic."

Not only did I get paid to write it — the guys in the production room did the parts, and I got a free trip to Lucerne (the one in Switzerland) at taxpayer expense. for the 2001 WASBE Conference. What I remember most was a complicated coffee maker right out there in public for anyone to use. So I did. Also the instrument collection at the former Wagner summer house (we saw the staircase where Siegfried Idyll was premiered) and the Picasso museum — mostly late-in-life pornographic drawings from Picasso's dirty old man period.

This is the edited studio version, recorded in 2001 at George Mason University. It also appears on my Martian Counterpoint album on Albany records.

There is an idée fixe-cantus firmus thing in all the movements. Its most obvious manifestation is the double reed solo in the B section of the third movement. It's also the trumpet melody in the fanfare that opens the whole piece.

I. Labyrinth. This movement was written last, thus it benefits from knowing everything else that's going to happen in the piece. It also has a whole bunch of metric modulations, and some pretty apeshit writing at the end.

II. Song Stylings. This was the first movement written, and thus the tune that emerged became that cantus firmus thing. It ends with an expanding chord progression, the last being ten notes. The two notes not in that chord become the opening tutti of the next movement.

III. Yoikes And Away. A scherzo about overstated climaxes, each more overstated than the last. The last gesture is like Daffy Duck slamming into a tree and then sliding down it. Hence the title.

IV. Martian Counterpoint. Some of the most complicated counterpoint I've ever written. Of the bass clarinet solo in the middle, the original player said "you must really love or really hate your wife." The ending reprises the ending of II, lingering on that ten-note chord, followed by a silly flourish to end.