Bass Clarinet and Marimba – Underneath the Spreading Tree

November 8th, 2011

This bass clarinet and marimba duet, while being very difficult, is full of wonderfully rich sounds and textures that you can not produce with any other combination of instruments. I partly regret my choice of instrumentation and may rewrite it for something more practical someday, but my reason for the choice is because of a phrase in Isaiah 55:12, “…all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” This personification stirred my creative curiosity on the brink of obsession, and I could not get the combination of bass clarinet and marimba out of my head. They are the perfect two instruments to depict the sound of living trees rejoicing over redeemed Israel and I couldn’t rest until I’d used them together for the purpose. However, a story is pointless if you only share the ending without saying how it came about. Using the perspective of the trees in the land I’ve written this work to tell the story of Israel’s fall into paganism, God’s judgement on them, and then finally their redemption. To listen to this work correctly, you must understand that you’re listening to a tree tell a story.

This video is only a sample of the work.

Download score and parts (PDF) ($14.49)
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Sample score

Additional information

Duration: 11:00

Throughout the major prophets in the Old Testament, the term “spreading tree” is used repeatedly in reference to the location in which the nation of Israel conducted their sinful pagan rituals. If one applies the personification of the trees in Isaiah 55 to these texts, it’s not hard to imagine what sorts of sounds God’s trees would make in response to detestable practices being performed underneath them. These practices included various ceremonies to honor false gods, ritualistic sexuality (mass orgies), and child sacrifice; clearly detestable practices in the eyes of God. The beginning of this tree’s story portrays these pagan ceremonies through primitive sounding harmonies and intricate rhythmic dancelike textures. At first these sounds seem innocent, but as the work progresses the harmonies are twisted to depict the darker components of pagan Israel’s worship.

The following are the texts I had in mind while writing this beginning section:

Jeremiah 2:20 (NIV), “Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute.”

Isaiah 57:5, “You burn with lust among the oaks and under every spreading tree; you sacrifice your children in the ravines and under the overhanging crags.”

The second section is the tree’s telling of God’s response to Israel’s disobedience. This is depicted by energetic and ominous sounds followed by sounds of intense sorrow. It is the tree’s version of these texts:

Jeremiah 4:13-15, “Our enemy rushes down on us like storm clouds! His chariots are like whirlwinds. His horses are swifter than eagles. How terrible it will be, for we are doomed! O Jerusalem, cleanse your heart that you may be saved. How long will you harbor your evil thoughts? Your destruction has been announced from Dan and the hill country of Ephraim.”

Jeremiah 13:24-27, “‘I will scatter you like chaff that is blown away by the desert winds. This is your allotment, the portion I have assigned to you,’ says the Lord, ‘for you have forgotten me, putting your trust in false gods. I myself will strip you and expose you to shame. I have seen your adultery and lust, and your disgusting idol worship out in the fields and on the hills. What sorrow awaits you, Jerusalem! How long before you are pure?'”

The final section depicts the tree’s swelling joy at the thought of the future return of God’s people to the land, the original reason I set out to write this work:

Isaiah 55:12,
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”


Double Bass Solo – Insentience

November 5th, 2011

When working with very low sounds, I enjoy keeping the same amount of tension in the texture that I’m accustomed to using by implementing dissonant intervals that are more widely spaced. Insentience is a difficult double bass solo for this reason; keeping the various intervals in tune while using the entire range of the bass is its primary challenge. Once learned, however, the various sounds can be executed without much physical difficulty so that the performer can focus on musical interpretation. In addition to this rewarding feature, there is also a variety of extended techniques including multiple idiomatic double stops, slow portamenti, left and right hand pizzicati, ricochet, natural harmonics, and lush combinations of all these techniques simultaneously. Advanced student performers interested in coming outside the box will be intrigued with the pleasing yet atypical sounds that come out of their bass.

Download score (PDF) ($5.99)
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Sample Score

Additional information

Duration 5:00

Suffering is the indirect result of desire. We want something, we don’t get it, and then we’re unhappy. When a person has reasonable desires that aren’t being fulfilled, they are dissatisfied with life and have a difficult time being content. In order to become happy a person must either take steps to satisfy their desires, or stop desiring. There are times when a person has a lot of bad luck and cannot fulfill even their basic human needs despite how hard they’ve tried. Since they cannot fulfill their desire, one might think that the answer to all of their problems is to stop desiring.

The problem with this is that when one stops desiring, they die. Their heart is still beating, but it gives no life to their spirit. Hunger is good because it drives the worker forward. If he stops wanting food, his role as a human being is nullified because his hunger causes him to do things that are natural to human beings. An even better example is love. When I met Liz (my wife) and got to know her for a while, I developed a desire to start a romantic relationship with her. I’d never been the type of guy that enjoyed asking a girl to go on a date, but my desire for her overcame my fear of failure. Had I decided that it was too hard to win her and killed the desire instead of pursuing it, the life-giving and healthy relationship that has come out of those early efforts would never have come about. Killing desire instead of taking persistent steps to fulfill it is not the behavior of a healthy human being and a human being’s spirit will eventually die along with desire. Desire makes us alive.

Not all desires can coexist. Again, the heart cannot cease its longing, or it will die. Therefore, desire must be channeled into something or someone that can conquer our heart and leave nothing behind. Liz can’t do this for me. Money can’t do it. Fame can’t do it. The only thing in the universe that can is Christ. Therefore, we must set our desire solely on Him if we want to truly be happy. Then we will be filled.


Brass Quintet – Waltz of the Savage

November 3rd, 2011

This work was written for a typical collegiate ensemble and is meant to be very standard, fitting in well with other brass quintet repertoire. This work does have its challenges of course, the main difficulty being the fast passages in 7/8 time. Other than this detail there is nothing atypical of a brass quintet piece that would prevent the average collegiate or even advanced high school ensemble from performing it.

The meaning behind the title is pretty straight forward…I am portraying distinguished looking westerners attempting to teach savage foreigners to dance. This is quickly thwarted when all the natives do is take what they learn and apply it to their own form of dance. Comical outcomes quickly surface.

This video is only a sample of the work. Total length is 4:45.

Purchase score and parts (pdf) – $11.49
 Foreign Currency? Click Here.

Sample Score

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