Bassoons and Saxophones, oh my!



Today I was able to complete the third variation of the bassoon quartet. I pretty much stayed with the formula of three steady, harmonized voices in staggered entrances against which was an obbligato solo voice. For the next variation,I anticipate writing a kind of punta beat as it’s basis. A ‘punta’ is a very popular genre in Honduras.

In the mean time, I’ve must of had over a half dozen starts and stops to the sax choir piece. Currently, I’ve been taking a more progressive direction. Now the piece begins with slow, repeated high notes in the soprano saxes. They seem to squeeze along in slowly descending dissonances. I envision some sort of ‘whining’ melody in the alto saxes. Perhaps an entrance of dense block chords in counterpoint?

The trumpet/marimba piece is still an iffy venture in my mind. Some portions of the work, such as the beginning of the piece, establish a nice, peaceful patter which I think is quite affective. The quicker second section of the piece seems at times a bit stilted and contrived. Currently, I’m working on a cadenza section in the trumpet. Here, I think the instrument seems free from the constraints of interacting with the marimba.


The ‘punta’, when performed by Honduran artists really flies! So an initial challenge of writing the 4th variation is establishing the right tempo: too slow and it loses its drive; too fast, and it might be too much of a challenge for the bassoonists. The basic punta rhythm looks like this:

But I modified it to go like this:

This morning I made some inroads into the 4th variation. The challenge is getting just the right balance of repetition and change. I’m trying to accomplish this by periodic rhythmic shifts and subtle modulation of harmonies.

The saxophone choir piece has now settled into a slow moving mass of whines’ in the soprano saxes and wailing leaps in the alto saxes. As is always the case, the slower the piece, the greater the challenge to the composer’s technical skills. So, that explains why the writing process is so SLOW GOING.

The trumpet/ marimba piece has emerged from a trumpet cadenza to a return to the marimba ‘patters’ and angular trumpet lines. Somehow I’m still sticking with the piece.


I continued to make headway on the bassoon quartet. In addition to the shifting rhythms and harmonic subtleties, I moved down the melodic  interest to a lower voice and added a third layer to the harmonic accompaniment.

The slow moving whines and wails continued in the sax choir piece. Writing in this manner, with just a handful of pitches has been a tedious process. I’m about a minute and a half into the piece and still haven’t introduced  the tenor and baritone saxes.


I completed the ‘punta’ variation this morning and began work on the 5th variation. So far it’s darker in character. I’m not sure whether to make this more of a transition section rather than a variation with the theme hidden in some way.I’m feeling as if this is the penultimate portion of the work that will lead into the final variation.

The sax choir piece is turning out to be one of the most contemporary sounding works that I’ve written in a while. Now the whines and wails in the upper voices are joined by moans in the lower voices. After a pause, a new section begins initiated by  the lower saxes who proceed in a slow tangle.

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