Bassoon Concerto for Orchestra – Against Indifference

November 28th, 2012

I would consider my bassoon concerto to be one of my best pieces. It began as a piece for piano and bassoon, but from the beginning I had plans to orchestrate it. It now works very well in both the piano and orchestral versions, has been reviewed by several bassoonists, and is a favorite among those who listen to my work. Any bassoonist looking for a new challenge to enjoy should most certainly download the free solo part and read through it. You, your accompanist(s), and your audience will love this piece.

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Sample Score
Sample Parts
Sample Piano transcription

Additional information:

Instrumentation: bassoon and orchestra (or piano)

Duration: 17:00

Performance notes: I highly recommend that the bassoon be amplified artificially.

This bassoon concerto was heavily influenced by two primary sources. Very few people know it, but John Williams writes fantastic music outside of the film industry. His bassoon concerto (Five Sacred Trees) is pretty much all that I listened to while I was working on this. The other source is actually from literature. Blaise Pascal, a 17th century French philosopher and mathematician, wrote a passionate argument against apathy for eternal matters; a philosophical discourse entitled “Against Indifference.”  Below is the title of each movement and a summary of the argument Pascal was making (the last one is my paraphrase):

Movement I, To the Apathetic

“But as for those who spend their lives without a thought for this final end of life and who, solely because they do not find within themselves the light of conviction, neglect to look elsewhere, and to examine thoroughly whether this opinion is one of those which people accept out of credulous simplicity or one of those which, though obscure in themselves, none the less have a most solid and unshakable foundation: as for them, I view them very differently.”

-Pascal

Movement II, A Lament for Doubt

“I can feel nothing but compassion for those who sincerely lament their doubt, who regard it as the ultimate misfortune, and who, sparing no effort to escape from it, make their search their principal and most serious business.”

-Pascal

Movement III, Search and Fruition

To live a life within the context of eternal existence gives us joy beyond our understanding. Seek this truth, and it will reveal itself to you.


Classical Piano Solo – Tear of Ambiguity

November 14th, 2012

This is an extremely challenging classical piano solo that requires the pianist to have complete right and left hand independence in order to perform it with the passion and freedom that it calls for. The rapid independent lines coupled with the sustain pedal being employed throughout entire sections of the piece creates an enormous sound wall that peaks in volume at the climax of the solo and dies away naturally without dampening the strings. This of course has the danger of any wrong notes being very obvious for several seconds during these sections. Taking all of these things into account, this classical piano solo is clearly written for a very accomplish pianist.

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Sample Score

Watch a player piano make the recording

Additional information

Duration: 6:30

Instrumentation: Solo piano

As I was writing this piece I could never quite decide which emotion I was attempting to capture. Whatever I had in mind, it was an emotion that would bring a person to tears. My goal has ended up being for me to convince the listener to empathize with another person’s suffering and unspeakable joy simultaneously. Some may view this concept as silly and far from practical, but this is the emotion that I think of when I see something incredible to come in the midst of a difficult situation. The adversity must take place in order for joy to result, but terrific end or not it still hurts in the meantime. The journey is beautiful because of its result.

Special thanks to Cornerstone University for allowing me to use their 6 foot yamaha grand player piano.


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.”


Transition

November 4th, 2011

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

Download score, parts, and solo part (PDF) ($129.99). (Includes 8.5×11 and 11×17 versions of the score as well as a complimentary piano reduction.)
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Purchase piano reduction, solo part, and accompaniment mp3 ($16.49)

Sample accompaniment mp3

Sample scores

Sample piano reduction

Duration: 21:00

Performance notes: This Concerto features an extremely difficult saxophone part utilizing the saxophone’s countless timbres, agility, and altissimo register. The performer must have a particularly acute sense of rhythmic precision and strong upper range; like any other concerto in history the soloist must be an extremely accomplished musician. There are also special effects that are particular to the woodwind family including multi-phonics, growling, pitch bends, portamenti, and quarter tone trills.

If the performer generally has a dark sound, the soloist will be overpowered, particularly in the second movement. This can compensated for by the performer using a brighter timbre during these densely scored sections, performing in a brighter hall, telling the band to switch to one on a part, or by artificial amplification. Be sure to consult a sound engineer on how to amplify the soloist if you choose this solution.

Musical interpretation: The title of this work has two meanings. In one sense it is the representation of life in general going through change. In order to settle upon a contented state, one must not fight the changes they go through in life but rather change their attitude towards their new surroundings. It is not our circumstances that make us happy, but our attitude towards our surroundings that governs how we feel. After all, a person can have everything in the world going their way and still be unhappy. I have attempted to capture this concept with this work. My suggestion to see this in the music is to think of the saxophone as a person seeking contentment and the band as the person’s environment (I hope you now see why I have chosen to not thin the orchestration).

On the other hand, this work is a perfect representation of how I have viewed life throughout the year of June 2007 through June 2008. I listen to this work and remember days and times that I assign to certain sections of the piece, some of which are documented in my journal. I will obviously not go into depth about this, but I will leave this by saying that I learned a lot that year.

In a sense you can say that this piece is about growing up; the attitudes of a person before they start to mature, the pain that is required to mature, and then finally looking at the world through eyes that are seeking deeper understanding. In any case, the work represents a person painfully transitioning into a new and better outlook on life.


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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