08 November 2008

An Alternate Angel

Some few years ago, I had made the acquaintance of trumpeter Chris O'Hara, who was playing with the Synergy Brass Quintet at the time. Earlier this fall, Chris got back in touch with me, and (as brevity is the soul of wit) I wrote an 11-minute unaccompanied trumpet piece, The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword.

Not an easy piece? When Chris showed the piece to organist Mark Engelhardt, Mark "smiled and thought the devil made him do it! Now, let's find the trumpet player intrepid enough to play it."

I don't much mind writing into intrepidation, really . . . .

While finishing the layout of the score, I was visited by the thought that the piece would work quite effectively for flute, as well (with judicious transposition). When I bounced that thought off my friend and colleague Peter H. Bloom, he looked at the score, and countered with the adjustment of employing alto flute. One further transposition later . . .

Peter made the time to look at and play through the piece carefully, and replied:

It fits the alto flute perfectly, and the pp high Bbs beautifully exploit the complex and singular sonority of the instrument. Composers/arrangers rarely, as yet, make the most of the instrument's range (dynamic and tessitura) and colors. The work, in structure and motivic elements, evokes (but is certainly not derivative of) the 16th-century unaccompanied instrumental ricercare (like Bassano's or Virgiliano's). The pervasive fourths (intervals) and fifths particularly remind me of the "battaglia" style ricercare. The 4ths/5ths/8ves, as they appear throughout the range of the alto flute, are trumpet-evocative (but in as a mysterious and other-worldly voice). You've crafted a very good piece!


J.Z. Herrenberg said...

That's a very gratifying reply, Karl. You must be pleased. (JayZ=Jezetha)

Karl Henning said...

You know, even before I saw the 'equation', I knew you.

Yes, it is a great compliment, and more than mere compliment, when a colleague has such an attuned appreciation of one's work.