11 June 2018

Ear Buds (detail)

The initial musical idea for Ear Buds (The dream of a young man in the woods, listening) came to me while I was walking (near the titular woods, in fact) and contemplating a new (and, ideally, better suited) piece for a certain clarinet choir, a certain unusually large clarinet choir, in 15 parts.

Although the musical idea came to me as I hoped to construct a piece better suited to a specific group, I soon reached the conclusion that this piece, too, would prove inadequate to the group’s demands.  In terms of my nascent piece, this was a benefit, as I soon realized that the piece I was forming in my inner ear, would be better served by a less homogeneous ensemble.  Another consideration from the initial spark was, technical ease;  so I decided to compose the piece for symphonic band, with the idea that it may be approachable for a young ensemble.

The scoring for the symphonic band, then, was less than full.  For one example, as I had not long before attended a community band concert, and saw that there were no bassoons in the band – to be more accurate, once of the group’s conductors also served as the sole bassoonist – I wrote Ear Buds with no bassoons.

This, then, was the birth of the Op.135.

Last year, as I was sharing my Symphony with the conductor of a local orchestra, part of the conversation turned (of necessity) upon the challenges faced by the music director of a community orchestra who wants to program a substantial work of new music.  As a possible stepping-stone in that arduous journey, we talked about a smaller-scale orchestral piece.  As chronicled in this blog, I saw to that orchestral adaptation, well, almost exactly a year ago.  On the whole, I think the scoring good;  an artifact from the original band score, though, is the lack of bassoons, which is arguably a peculiarity of the Op.135a.

For the present call, the requirements of scoring meant that I had to scale back the brass a great deal.  From three trumpets (and there are a few places where they have a kind of staggered fanfare), and two horns, and three trombones – to but one of each.  Quite a bit of creative line reassignment was called for, which I had to take on more or less a page-by-page basis;  the addition of the two bassoons was rather a help.  It was necessary also to go from four percussionists, to two;  in this I was helped by the permissible addition of harp.

Thus did the Op.135b come to be.

As with a number of other pieces of mine, although I have sought to accommodate various groups/occasions with alterations, or alternate scorings, none has yet been performed for an audience.

Who knows?  This could be the year.

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