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.

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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.


Violin and Clarinet Duet – Proclamation

November 13th, 2010

I’ve learned to never force music into the box I originally intended it to be put into, but this violin and clarinet duet took that concept to a new level for me. My original plan was to write a sacred work for violin and saxophone for my friend and I to play during communion services. Typically, communion has two musical segments; one for each communion element. So, I wanted the work to be two movements with each being less than two minutes long. The first movement came together very naturally and very quickly, but then life happened and I never got around to writing the second movement. When I finally got a chance to work on it again, I realized that there was no good musical reason to add a second movement. I also realized that the only reason I was using the saxophone was because I sound my best on it. Clarinet blends with violin much more naturally (although I attribute this partly to traditional bias) and the very simple part I had written for it makes more sense with a simpler sound. I rewrote the piece for violin and clarinet thinking I would just have my wife play it instead (although I ended up recording it since we weren’t married yet and she was 650 miles away at the time). So I started with a two movement work for violin and saxophone to be used for communion and ended up with a one movement work for violin and clarinet to be used for who knows what.

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The recording process was another matter. I had most of the Purpose project squared away with only this piece left to record. I got off my night shift at 6:00am on Sunday morning and set to work on laying down the clarinet track so that Eva could come and add her part that afternoon. I armed the four microphones I was using and combined several takes to form a satisfactory performance. Before I remembered that I hadn’t saved my progress, the power went out and I was forced to try again and ended up with a significantly better sound (and I still made it to church on time). That afternoon I got all the takes I needed from Eva and finally went to bed (I’d been up since Saturday afternoon). On Monday I woke up only to discover that all of the files for the violin’s tracks had been scattered beyond repair. I was only able to salvage the files from one microphone resulting in a very thin sound. But just for kicks, I tried muting 3 of the four clarinet recordings so that they would both sound thin and be able to blend. To my surprise I liked the result very much. It certainly wasn’t the pristine audio quality I wanted for the Purpose project, but there was an irresistible authenticity in the sound that spoke with an innocence and a sincerity that I could not have possibly come up with intentionally. Instead of redoing the recording, I decided to sit on the idea of using what I had. When I tried listening to the CD in its entirety to see whether or not the transitions worked, I finally decided that this authentic and unrefined sound perfectly captured the reason I made the CD.

From the very first note, everything about this CD is polished and seemingly flawless in the aspects of performance, composition and engineering. Except for a few minor details, I could not have made this project any better even if more resources had been available to me. The first six tracks work together to communicate to the listener that life has value, meaning, and purpose and it is a wonderful gift from God that is worth your time to seek and understand. But what does all this look like? Where does it lead? It leads us to the feet of Jesus with nothing to offer but our love and authentic awe and worship. How would I depict this musically? I pick up an instrument I can’t play well enough to impress anyone with and play Amazing Grace with a sister in Christ Jesus. No virtuosic technique. No polished well-mastered recording. Not even a terribly original composition. Just two people showing authentic and sincere adoration for their creator through sound. A simple “I love you” to the creator of the universe. The very essence of the purpose of life.

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