Flute Solo – Ivory Desert

November 4th, 2011

This flute solo was written for a composition seminar in which Dr. Ricardo Lorenz paired each participating composer with a participating performer in order to write a solo for each performer’s instrument. Throughout the semester, Joelle Willems (the flute player whom I consider a co-composer of this work) and I met periodically to discuss the flute solo I was writing. She would play passages that I’d written and together we’d make detailed modifications to make the solo more idiomatic for the flute while still keeping my creative intent intact. As I expected, these sessions not only changed the way I originally intended certain things to be played, but it changed the sort of flute solo that I wanted to write. As we went along, Joelle showed me certain aspects of the flute of which I was unaware, and I immediately took that knowledge and applied it to the solo. Working directly and as often as possible with a performer is the most effective compositional technique I have ever encountered.

Performer: Joelle Willems

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This flute solo is still extremely challenging. It uses the full range of the flute in dynamics and pitch as well as several extended techniques. Between slow lyrical sections, rapid and aggressive passages, sweeping melodic gestures, expressive grace notes, flutter tonguing, and guided improvisation this piece offers the advanced flutist everything they could want in a short unaccompanied solo.

The title refers to an object of beauty that is incapable of being observed because it destroys the life that is attracted to it with the very thing that makes it beautiful. Thus, the piece reflects radiant beauty, loneliness, and lifelessness.


Wedding Processional Music – The First Song

August 30th, 2010

It is very rare for me to write a piece quickly and have it be worth anyone’s time. But sometimes the meaning behind the sound in my head is so obvious that it takes very little time to make it into a coherent musical unit. One Sunday afternoon I sat down to put a few initial ideas down and ended up not stopping for eight hours. This work resulted in the first draft of the wedding processional music Liz and I ended up using for our wedding, “The First Song”. After meeting with Dr. Lorenz (my teacher at that time) twice about the work, tweaking the formal structure, and perfecting notation for the improvisational aspects, I finished the shortest piece I had ever written.

This sample is taken from my album, Purpose. Click here for more information.

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The length of The First Song was determined by the use I had in mind for it, which was wedding processional music. But its transient nature also contributed meaning by leaving the mystery of romantic love a mystery.  My main goal was to tell my wedding guests exactly how I felt as the woman I wanted to marry walked down the aisle to become my wife. However, the piece works very well without the visual aspect being present.  It is a simple depiction of what happens in a man’s heart the first time he sees the woman that God is about to give to him.  It didn’t need to be long, because this emotion in its specificity happens once in a lifetime and is very short.

This emotion is apparently also very predictable (although this does not detract from the emotion but rather intensifies it with anticipation). Because this life changing emotional experience had been foreshadowed on so many different occasions it was surprisingly easy to predict accurately.  The very first note in particular was a very obvious one:  A single sharp and high pitched percussive strike on a grand piano with the sustain pedal engaged in order to bring the entire sound spectrum of the piano into a subtle state of anticipation to depict the literal physiological reaction of a man’s heart when he sees the object of his deepest and most passionate affection from a distance.  I’d felt this many times before when seeing Liz from a distance and to describe the emotion musically was very simple.  From there it was simply a matter of imagining her walking towards me with the intent o giving herself to me and (I to her) for the rest of our lives.

The flurry of nervous tremolos and glissandi following the first note describes the excitement I had while anticipating my bride’s walk towards me. The way I use the sound spectrum here is designed to be a direct reaction to the first note’s sympathetic resonance just as the anticipation of Liz walking towards me was the result of seeing her.  I think it is also important to point out that I use the black key pentatonic scale to color the sound with a slight stereotypical oriental impression.  This was motivated by Liz’s patriarchal Chinese heritage, but I masked the color because it’s very hard to see that she’s part Chinese.

The next minute or so of the piece describes the anticipation, nervousness, and wonderful joy I felt as she walked towards me.  I could do nothing but bless God and rejoice in my bride’s beauty, the richness and depth of her spirit, and her love for me.  The various components of the sound are designed to fit together in such a way as to put into the mind of the listener a snapshot of the passionate and complex mixture of emotion  This texture builds and comes to a point at which it can no longer be contained and collapses out of necessity.  The bride has arrived face to face with the man rejoicing before God over her, and his joy must be contained in a permanently lingering conclusion that will be preserved for as long as they both live.

Long story short, I love my wife.

“The man said,
‘This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called “woman,”
for she was taken out of man.'”

Genesis 2:23, NIV

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