It might take days or even weeks to get a piece off the ground. A piece might start out strong but after the opening statement, seem to loose its luster. And then, I often ask myself: ”Now what?" Such is the case with the saxophone choir composition I’m currently working on. The piece begins with an ascending stepwise tune creating ‘blurred' harmonies in its wake. The opening statement ends with a full, sonorous, chord. So far so good. Now I try a kind of chant like melody in the tenor saxophones with a less than compelling harmony in the baritone saxophones. I try voicing the chords in other ways, adding or subtracting instruments, changing textures. This morning I tried sustained polychords moving as a block together. But this afternoon the section seemed out of place.I think a milder set of repeated chords set in lilting rhythms might just work.
Meanwhile, I worked on a handful of measures in the trumpet- marimba piece. In this piece, It seems as if I’m writing the same material I’ve written before. If I can inject some of the unexpected into the piece as I do with the solo tuba piece , I’d be headed in the right direction.
Remember the lilting repeated chords in the saxophone choir piece? Well that didn’t work out for me either. Today I tried a simpler, more succinct approach: a three note harmonized statement in the soprano and alto saxes answered by a varied version of the opening stepwise tune in the baritone saxes.Nope. What’s more, I’ve committed these few measures to memory to the point that be it has become an ‘ear worm’( a tune that keeps repeating itself in one’s brain for hours a a time.)
Prompted by an email from Cassandra of the Luftbassoons, I began to ponder a plan for a new bassoon quartet piece. I’m thinking of doing a set of variations based on a Central American Folk song). The piece will have political overtones.
Later in the day, there was an email from Elena Galbraith of the Nota Bene Trio. She said the group is slated to perform my Dorothy Parker Songs on a concert series next fall. Since the concert had its focus on the Algonquin Hotel scene (a literary circle, which includied Miss Parker, that convened at the hotel) she thought a few more settings of her poetry were in order to round out the program. It’s always a better compositional situation when someone asks you to write something rather than writing something on ‘spec’.
I came upon a lovely Honduran Lullaby that, in my estimation, is a quite suitable theme for the bassoon quartet. I can already hear it being song by a solo bassoon with the other quartet members being the strum of the guitar. As the work develops, I can hear the theme slowly being mocked and overtaken by hostile textures and configurations..... Finally, the theme returns with a solo bassoon along with spoken interjections of text by the three other quartet members. It’s nice to make these projections, but usually my initial thoughts go by the wayside as I grind things out in the composition process.
Afterthought: As things stand.. the sax choir piece finally began plowing ahead. I finally arrived at a combination of chant-like melody, 'blurred' harmonies, and full sonorities. Oh saxophone choir!