At the Crossroads

I think I’ve reached a satisfactory ending to the bassoon quartet. It ends on a somber note; as if the mother tries to calm her distraught child but to no avail. I will probable delay editing the piece, and move on to other things.In a few weeks, I’ll revisit the piece with a fresh perspective .

I decided to totally revamp the trumpet/ marimba piece..For starters, the piece will be comprised of a series of short episodes rather than one long single- movement.

The first episode begins with a slow pulse in the marimba over which is a sustained, floating trumpet line. As the movement progresses, the activity in each instrument gradually becomes more involved.
It came to my attention later Monday night that a choir in the Phoenix area is considering new works by Arizona composers. I have only a week to get a new piece written, but I still decided to give it a shot. I settled on the  Walt Whitman poem Small the Theme of my Chant.

I decided to set it  a cappella (SATB) to fit the guidelines of the call for scores.

The piece  starts out with a sustained pedal tone in the altos over which is a chant- like tune in the sopranos. 

I must. confess,I’ve never had much luck with my choral writing. 
I spent  virtually all day consumed with the choral piece. As I delved into the piece, I faced a few challenges. Having decided to have the work sound ‘chantlike’,I just couldn’t seem to find a focus. The piece was sounding too Balkan; too much like a Bulgarian choral piece. Another challenge that I doubt I could have solved in a week is that Whitman’s verses have a lot of symbolism; one needs time with the text to get all the subtle meanings.So I decided to put the piece to one side for now. Instead, I decided to turn to a tried and true poet whom I’ve set many times before: Sara Teasdale. I settled on the poem There will come soft rains . It’s a poem I’ve actually set before. Seeing that I have less than a week to work with, I decided to set the piece homophonically with little counterpoint. The call to scores is for a ‘pickup’ chorus that won’t have much time in the way of rehearsals so it follows that a piece that’s quicker to write is quicker to learn.

Thursday: Work on the Teasdale setting seemed to go reasonably well. In fact, instead of working on the trumpet- marimba piece, I decided to start on another Teasdale setting: the poem Redbirds it was a poem I set years ago while a student at Eastman. I’ve tended to shy away from writing choral music which hasn’t been a strong suit for me. But now I seem to be more comfortable with the medium since I’ve had a break from it. The worst case scenario is if the pieces aren’t programmed by a choir, I could always publish them on line. I have about a half dozen choral works available with an online publisher and two of them have sold a number of copies.
Later in my morning session, I returned to the sax choir piece. The Pictures at an Exhibition theme seems to have taken hold. I would describe what I’m doing as a mix of  deconstruction and jazz.
There will come soft rains seems to be working. In my judgement, it has a nice flow, the harmonies are effective and the melody is memorable. Will the people in Phoenix go for it? I can’t say. It might not fit their stylistic preferences. The harmonies might not be spicy enough. It might be too short. Then again, they’re more likely to fit in a short piece rather than a long one. Provided I meet the deadline on Sunday, we’ll just have to wait and see.

My long range plan is to have a group of about four Teasdale settings. 

I think I’ve learned from my failures and have become more skilled at choral writing. But, a bit of doubt lingers in my mind.
I completed  There will come soft rains this morning to my satisfaction. I then turned to work on Teasdale’s Redbirds and think I came up with an effective opening.The thing I like about setting poetry is that the structure of a poem seems to dictate a musical form. It’s almost as if the piece of music is prefabricated. 

There is a similar situation with the sax choir piece. Given that it is a kind of paraphrase of a preexistent piece of music, I’m basically taking bits and pieces of the Pictures theme as fuel for the form and direction of the piece.

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