O Come, O Come Emmanuel – Saxophone Duet

November 29th, 2012

This arrangement of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was written for my saxophone playing friend, another Caleb, and me to play are our church’s christmas eve service in 2012. But besides simply wanting to write pleasant Christmas music to get into the season, I’d also been wanting to experiment with playing a saxophone through a delay effect. This means that whatever is played gets played back which enables a musician to play a saxophone duet with him/herself. At first I wanted to keep this strict and only write notes that could actually be performed by a single instrumentalist with a computer. However, the duet benefitted greatly from having moments of unisons and harmonies to give the listener a break from the constant chasing effect that results from a duet like this. So while it is still written with this delay idea in mind, this arrangement of “O Come Emmanuel” has ended up being a fairly traditional and yet a very unique twist on this ageless Christmas carol.

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Preview first page of score.

Below are two verses from “O come Emmanuel” on which the music is focused:

“O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

“O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

 

This is one of my favorite christmas carols. This was a joy to work on, and I hope it’s a joy to play.


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.”


Discovery

November 8th, 2011

This video is only a sample of the work.

Download Score and Parts (PDF) (11.99)
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Download includes both versions of the piece; with euphonium or with tenor saxophone. The euphonium part will also work well on cello.

Sample score and parts

Instrumentation: Violin, Euphonium (or Cello or Tenor Saxophone), and Piano

Duration 7:00

Movement I, Ambition

Movement II, Disappointment

Movement III, Moving Forward

Performance notes: This is a piece written both for children and about children. Any fun ideas to incorporate into your performance accordingly is perfectly appropriate and encouraged. For example, the premier of this work incorporated a painting demonstration. While this work is written for an unusual combination of instruments, the euphonium part can be easily played on cello. There is nothing particularly challenging about this work that I can see, although because of the precision in intonation that is required for a great performance, I would recommend this for at least first or second year collegiate musicians. However, this should not discourage a solid high school group from attempting it.

Background information: My friend Tiffany (violin) organized and premiered this work in the fall of 2009 for a recital she designed specifically for children. Despite it’s purpose, adults should of course feel free to enjoy the work just as much as children in the same way that adults tend to enjoy movies that are meant for children.

Musical Interpretation: Children are very curious human beings and sometimes are so to the point that they get themselves into trouble. This piece depicts the process that a child goes through when they decide to pursue something that they are really not supposed to for reasons that they are unaware of. It starts with Ambition driving them towards finding out what they want to know despite formal sanctions from their authorities. Then the time comes when they discover what they were looking for, and either discipline or physical discomfort comes from their ambition resulting in Disappointment. This emotion seems to always resolve in them well before it should taking into account the sorrow they seem to display, which is why I made the second movement as short as I possibly could. As the child is Moving Forward they seem to forget all about the entire incident of their lesson. They go on just as they always did, but through observation we can clearly see that their experience has somehow changed their behavior.


Timpani and Piano – Application

November 4th, 2011

In this timpani and piano duet the timpani player is required to play quickly and quietly, change the tuning of the timpani while playing, and listen carefully through the sound of the timpani to hear the piano’s pulse. This piece can be quite difficult to play at the prescribed tempo, but it still sounds great when it is played slower than marked. Doing this can make it easier on both the timpani player and even some audiences. A danger to watch for is that the piano can be easily overpowered by the timpani in dark or very wet halls. Be sure to take the necessary precautions to make sure the piano is always heard clearly. This can be achieved by performing in a bright or less resonate hall, using a brighter piano such as a Yamaha, or by slightly muffling the timpani as a last resort. Artificial amplification might work, but the placement of the sound source for the piano has to be in a location that enables it to mix with the sound of the timpani on the stage.

Download score (PDF) ($5.99)
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Preview Score

My friend, Amy, premiered this timpani and piano duet with the man she eventually married at the University of Illinois during her undergrad senior recital. She is an extremely talented performer and a passionate music educator. She asked me to write this piece specifically for her recital, and I accepted with eventual enthusiasm. I took the assignment as an opportunity to test my abilities after writing Transition and The Dark Process as well as to get my foot in the door for graduate school at the university; not to mention doing a favor for an old friend. After it was premiered I spoke with the department chair of percussion, and he said that he would put a good word in for me in the composition department. I have since been rejected for graduate studies at the University of Illinois and have finished a master’s at Michigan State University.

Below is an actual performance of the timpani and piano duet. Not the best recording, but it is a fantastic performance and will give you an idea of what it would be like to actually play it.


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
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Sample Score

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