b Riding East: October 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

Applebaum Variations

Mark Applebaum (who turned 40 on October 13th, 2007) wrote a "Theme in Search of Variations". As an exercise for his composition seminar, Mark asked each student to compose a variation to this theme. This score and MP3 (poor quality midi) represent my response to his theme.

Applebaum Variation
All parts

As far a structure, I model the variation on his 'second' theme. I borrow one of his compositional techniques in the process, where I build a sequence, alternatively dropping his measures and splicing in a 'second' variation directly within his 'second' theme. If you look carefully, you'll see the second and third bars are the first and second of his second section, followed by two bars of my variation, followed by his bar, etc. The spacing algorithm: 1,2,x,4,x,x,7,x,x,x etc. where x is my new variation.

To build my variation, I used material from Prokofiev's 7th sonata (seemed a nice contrast to the 'grove' feeling of Mark's theme). Yet I have the metrically structure follow the metrical structure of his first section. Eventually we reach the end of Mark's second section, but before the last beat, a parenthesis is inserted with the substantial clarinet section. Of course, here is the first time Mark's bars (1,2,4,7) are played continuously, but only a monophonic line in the Crotales. When the finally beat of Mark's last measure is reached, then we have continuity for an abridged statement of my variation. If you note, the algorithm was broken initially, and so here finally repaired in the final...

SfSound will perform the piece on November 13th. I hope to post a recording of that performance here shortly.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Lander Pass

I built a sketch over the summer for a structure for a new piece that was modeled after a physical structure. The intent was not to produce sound images or something resembling the physical structure, but simply to use the actual structure as a model for building the piece. In this case, I chose a patch quilt. The idea was to use a handful of source materials that are clearly differentiated, and then to transition across patches of this material. Ideally, each patch of material evokes a discernable yet contrasting image of sorts (again not in the physical imitative sense). Use of time provides an alternative perspective of the patches, etc.

I was influenced by traditional Japanese dance. I saw a concert in Tokyo several years ago. It seemed that in the end, the art was not about the meter or even gestures, but rather a series of images that would be framed in your mind. And so, the question is whether this 'structural' plan would work in music. I believe it does.

Here's a link to my own piano performance with improvisation from sketches (no score yet exists -- coming soon):

Lander Pass

In the summers, we now live on the Lander Pass route, a short-cut of shorts on the Oregon Trail. It turns out all of my ancestors were pioneers, most of them crossing the Rocky Mountains in the late 1840s. My great-great grandmother, Sarah Matilda Utley, pulled a hand-cart across the mountains at age 13. Several members of her family including her mother died during the crossing. As I continue to borrow from Ives (just finished learning his Thoreau from the Concord Sonata), I decided to drop in a quote of the quintessential Mormon pioneer hymn "Come, Come Ye Saints".

It's just a quote of course, or rather an attribution of sorts. If you end up defining some meaning for each image of the piece, that's just as well, but again this was not by design.