Trumpet Sonata Consortium – Update

Sam Gustavson MeetingIt was great to meet with Sam Gustavson to discuss the plan for our trumpet sonata consortium! For any trumpet players interested in being a part of the project, it is officially the last month to join (the deadline is August 31st).

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We have decided that the piece is going to be about the Coronavirus, both on a global scale as well Sam’s personal experience working in a pharmacy during the pandemic and contracting the disease. Tentatively, the titles for the three movements of the sonata are going to be Chaos, Solitude, and Bloom.

Chaos will depict the sudden and extreme adjustments to the early stages of the virus, with schools and businesses shutting down,  events being cancelled, and pretty much the whole world standing still and going into quarantine. The second movement, Solitude, will recount Sam’s experience with quarantining for two weeks after testing positive for the virus, but will also portray the general feeling of isolation and loneliness felt by many during this time. The final movement, entitled Bloom, will be an optimistic end to the piece, representing our society’s resilience as we more towards some level of normalcy (we’re not necessarily in this stage yet). Since these stages of coping with the virus didn’t always occur in a set order and often overlapped with one another, several motives and themes will recur throughout the three movement structure.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet up with Sam in person to establish a foundation and meaning for the sonata. I think it will be therapeutic to channel some of my thoughts and emotions from the past five months into this piece, and I hope those who work on and perform the piece will have a similar experience. I’m eager to start writing this piece soon!

Eric Whitacre Trombone Choir Arrangements – Available for Purchase!

My trombone choir arrangements of Eric Whitacre’s October and Lux Aurumque are now available for purchase on Sheet Music Plus!

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Whitacre’s music, so it was a pleasure to write these arrangements and get to know the original pieces better through this context. I’ve received a lot of interest in these two arrangements over the years, so I was thrilled to learn that I could register the copyrights through SMP.

Here’s a gorgeous performance of October by the Western Michigan University Trombone Choir, under the direction of Dr. Steve Wolfinbarger.

Civitasolis Reed Quintet – Call for Miniatures

I’m very honored to have been chosen as a winner of Civitasolis Reed Quintet’s Call for Miniatures with my new piece Shockwave!! I’ve always loved the sound of reed quintet and wanted an excuse to write for the instrumentation, so this competition came at the perfect time. I can’t wait to hear this fantastic ensemble’s virtual performance of my piece!

Civ

Duality – Recording

The premiere performance of Duality, performed brilliantly by the Ann Arbor Pioneer HS Symphony Band under the direction of David Leach!

It was an absolute thrill and honor to write this piece for my alma mater, not only because I knew I would have the freedom to pull out all the stops for the piece, but because of how near and dear this ensemble is to my heart. I can’t begin to express my gratitude to Mr. Leach and the Symphony Band for their dedication to the piece and the passion, care, and nuance they put into this performance. This whole endeavor was such a dream come true and this concert will be a memory I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

Program Notes:

The concept behind Duality is based on the philosophy of Yin and Yang, which describes how seemingly opposite or conflicting forces often interconnect and complement one another. The piece consists of two unique and contrasting sections which are formed by splitting each musical element into absolute, black and white dichotomies (fast and slow tempos, loud and soft dynamics, etc.). Simplifying and splitting musical elements in this way leads the initial section of the piece to be aggressive and chaotic while the other is calm and reflective. Additionally, the aggressive section of the piece consists primarily of variations of a descending melodic theme and minor harmonic progression, but mirror images of these components are created through inversion and negative harmony and are employed in the latter section of the piece.

These contrasting sections initially function independently, but the opposing elements meet and clash with one another later in the piece which leads to tension and apprehension as the incompatible melodies try to occur simultaneously. The roles of each melodic line seemingly change during this conflict, causing the traditionally chaotic descending melody to be elongated and played over an unstable variation of the formerly calm ascending melody. Through this discordance, the two contradictory forces slowly learn to understand one another and work together, giving rise to a triumphant recapitulation of the calm and reflective melody fused together with energetic material from the initial chaotic section. The piece concludes optimistically, but a final statement of the descending melody implies lingering tension between the two opposing forces.

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When Great Trees Fall

This has been the most challenging and meaningful piece I’ve ever written. When Seamus Bennett first contacted me to talk about writing a piece in dedication to his father, Brian Joseph Bennett, who had just passed away, I was both humbled and completely intimidated by the request. So much of my music has been inspired by volcanoes, unusual weather patterns, or other trivial nonsense, so writing a piece to help Seamus and his family through this tragedy was an important, if daunting, responsibility.

Writing this piece about losing a father proved to be a deeply personal and emotional journey for me as well, as this June will be fifteen years since my own father passed away. Revisiting the thoughts and emotions I experienced during that time was poignant and uncomfortable, but expressing them through music in this way felt cathartic.

The title of the piece, “When Great Trees Fall”, comes from a poem by Maya Angelou that explores how we process and cope with the loss of a loved one. The piece is divided into two movements that each uses a line from the poem as its subtitle. The first movement, “Senses Eroded Beyond Fear”, depicts the immediate and visceral emotions after losing a loved one, alternating between somber numbness and illogical rage. The second movement, “Peace Blooms, Slowly and Always Irregularly”, represents the hopeful and optimistic sentiment that, even though there may still be lingering pain and sadness, time will bring healing and peace.

I am immensely grateful to Seamus and the Bennett family for trusting me to write a piece of this importance and sincerely hope that it will help them through the grieving process in some way.

WGTF