11 August 2019

In a Jazz-esque Way

As I have noted ere now, Gentle Reader, when Peter Bloom returned to Boston from Ensemble Aubade's tour of the southeast, with exceedingly gratifying reports of the warm reception and overall success enjoyed by Oxygen Footprint, I found myself highly motivated to compose a companion piece.

The story of that piece's composition is in two overlapping parts.

Firstly, I had a musical idea I was turning over in my mind, for another, entirely different trio, of two flutes playing repeated notes at the interval of a third.

While I allowed that other trio to wander off in its own, and a new direction, I took that idea of the thirds, and decided that it would be the germ of a viola ostinato. Possibly because it was winter yet, and despite the fact that I do not ski, myself, the mental image I formed of this musical figure, was the track of a pair of skis.  And since my viola music had a kind of precision, and it seemed to be ticking the time (but mostly because the sound of the phrase appealed to me) I decided that the name of the piece would be Swiss Skis.

On these lines (as it were) I thought of the material for the flute as the skier him or herself, gliding easily along the pristine snow; and that the harp/piano is the at times irregular landscape which our imaginary skier negotiates with an airy grace.

Secondly, as to the relationship of the three parts, the musical texture:

At the time that I set to serious work on the piece, I was listening, in (as they say) heavy rotation, to a famous jazz track, and I thought I would freely adapt the texture to my own material.

Thus, the persistent viola ostinato is the rhythmic engine, and while the harp/piano is, broadly speaking, "the bass," I felt that if I wrote the part as rhythmically "straightforward" as the exemplar, I should only give the performer occasion to hurl curses upon my name; and the flute is the soloist lithely bopping and crooning in response to the musical foundation.

Whether the result is actual jazz, or (like, say Stravinsky's Ragtime) chamber music reflecting an affectionate regard for jazz, is perhaps a question whose answer might entail the splitting of some hairs in the discovery.



07 August 2019

Opus 150 Outro

On Thursday, 1 August I finished the setting of the text. I continued with some minor tweaks upon the instrumental lines as I was preparing the vocal score, which I sent to all the ensemble on Saturday the 4th, with the note to the singers that:
One challenge not reflected in the score (though not insurmountable, I trust) is that the fixed media, which occupies something of its own sonic plane in the piece, may at times present something of a distraction (which in context, echoes the turmoil in Macbeth's soul, I think.) I believe that full rehearsals will be the key to getting you accustomed.  You will draw steadier and more reliable pitch info from the live quartet.

Later on Saturday, I sent parts out to the instrumentalists.

The play, of course, is the tragedy of a man who sets aside his honor, and indeed sheds his conscience, in order to further his ambition, strewing death all about him in the process.

It cannot be denied that Shakespeare speaks to every age.