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.

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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.

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Sample Score


Wedding Music for Piano – Oath of Unity

December 18th, 2010

I wrote this wedding music for piano with an accomplished pianist in mind. However, this detail should not stop anyone from attempting it. I set out to create a broadly usable piece to be used towards the end of wedding preludes and I hope that I have done this well enough to appeal to most performers. The only questionable challenge is that there are some wide intervals throughout the work. I am able to reach a major ninth with ease and therefore wrote many without a second thought. If this is not the case for you, please feel free to change a few notes using your best judgement.

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Sample Score

There are three hymns woven throughout this work. The sample above contains an arrangement of “O Perfect Love”. The other two are “Take my Life and Let It Be” and “Be Thou My Vision”:

     

These samples are taken from my album, Purpose. Click here for more information.

Additional information

I wrote this wedding music for piano to be premiered for my friends, Pam and Ryan, at their wedding for prelude. The danger with this role in a program is that the beginning material is either easily missed, or it rudely interrupts conversations. I have attempted to use this problem to the performer’s advantage by utilizing John Cage’s philosophy: Any sound you hear during the performance is part of the music. While I disagree with Cage on many points, I do believe that there is something to be had with the idea of artistic noise. I actually want the audience to passively participate in the performance by talking at a respectful volume until the piece starts to unfold it’s main themes more clearly. It is the performer’s job to play beneath their mummer and crescendo as they decrescendo by becoming interested. I have yet to see it actually work out that way, but it’s a nice idea…

Since I was writing for a wedding, I have obviously written a piece about marriage. I’m am very passionate about the issue of divorce, and am strongly against divorce outside of marital unfaithfulness and even then only in extreme cases. This work is a charge to any bride and groom to fulfill their oaths to one another out of unconditional love no matter what their situation is. The harsh section of this piece represents the more unpleasant parts of marriage; but this section is fleeting and resolves quickly by returning to the original themes depicting unconditional love and faithfulness. The main take away I want people to have is that the love within marriage unites two people so intimately that the darker parts of the relationship are nullified.


Saxophone and Clarinet – Essence Altered

October 7th, 2010

I originally wrote this saxophone and clarinet duet for Liz and I to play at our wedding. It is, however, perfect for any setting whether it be for a wedding, church service, or a recital (I’ve used it for all three). However, since it was designed to be played by a bride and groom, the idea is to depict two people becoming one in the music. This is exactly what happens at a wedding, and the piece’s dissonant beauty reflects this sacred concept. This concept should be made clear to your audience so that they properly understand the piece.

This sample is taken from my album, Purpose. Click here for more information; its total length is 5 minutes

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Sample score

Additional information

I am now going to disclose my full intended meaning for this saxophone and clarinet duet, and I fear that both good-willed and malicious people may misunderstand. Discussing sexuality can be a very sensitive thing because of how our culture has mutilated it. We have taken an innocent and beautiful part of creation and removed it from its proper context thereby perverting the entire concept; from the act itself to its relational and spiritual application. Currently, sexuality is always associated with copulation in one way or another and people cannot seem to get this out of their minds. Sexuality can be (and in this context should be) understood as a deeply intimate relational concept that refers to a certain level of connectivity between physical sentient beings. It cannot be related to animals and it cannot be related to spirits. It is for the spirit-animal hybrids that we humans are. It has something to do with sex and as well as something to do with the marriage relationship and its intimate spiritual connectivity.

While this piece refers primarily to the spiritual aspects of sexuality, the sex act makes the spiritual aspects possible which is why its purpose in uniting man and wife cannot go undiscussed. Between Genesis 2:24, I Corinthians 7:4, and Ephesians 5:28-31, it is quite clear that a married couple is to be regarded not just as a unit, but a single physical organism. How this works is something of which Paul writes in Ephesians 5, “This is a profound mystery.” When a couple gets married, their resultant relationship is so deep and so profound that eventually their body, soul, and mind literally begin to function as a single unit. Two separate beings slowly growing to know each other perfectly and in every way in order to become one while each individual maintains the wonderfully complex distinctiveness that God gave each of them. Sex seems to have something to do with this, but it’s simply a means to an end. This end is what I’m attempting to get at with this piece; that profound mystery that I will never understand.

The first thirty seconds or so begin with a technique in which I give the performers a set of notes and tell them to improvise for a set amount of time. I’ve written the pitch sets in such a way as to leave no possibility for resolution so that by the time this section is over an unsettled and yet profoundly peaceful atmosphere has been created. This resultant texture represents two restless spirits of a living man and woman who are longing to be with one another; the essences of two human beings passionately desiring the fundamental change needed for them to become a single entity without compromising their distinctiveness.

After this opening improvisatory section, the rest of the piece consists of a simple three part form. The outer sections resemble a series of long sighs in which the instruments slowly merge in and out of each other’s timbre and pitch. The resultant sequence of dissonance and consonance is reflective of the intensity, depth, beauty, and mystery of the love found within the marriage relationship. However, since I’m depicting a change, the first of these outer sections deals with the relationship before the fundamental change that begins after marriage.

The middle section takes a motive from the limited melodic material presented in the first section and elaborates on it. This development is accompanied by the same type of improvisation as in the beginning, but this time with direction and intent. These elements work together to push the sound back into the sighs depicted at the beginning. The saxophone’s improvised texture is designed in such a way as to envelop the the clarinet’s sound while still allowing the clarinet to be clearly heard. Heading towards the climax of the piece the clarinet and saxophone both begin to have windows of improvisation. The lines (both improvised and not) dance around one another with increasing energy, finally pausing on a single pitch in unison. The two lines then separate with a sharp attack on the same dissonant interval which we heard in the beginning that resolves to reveal a much more intense and in depth joyful sigh compared to what we heard in the beginning. When the saxophone resolves the sigh, the clarinet responds by cascading down to a lower register which results in a related and peaceful sound caused by all of the sound that came before it.

The final section represents the goal of this fundamental change. The two distinct and complimentary people are now seen as one person. Their essences can now freely pass in and out of one another without fear and without shame. They know and are known deeply by one another.


Soprano Saxophone and Piano Duet – Hide and Seek

September 6th, 2010

I had a very difficult time finishing soprano saxophone and piano duet. It began as a simple exercise in exploring orchestrational possibilities in jazz chords while applying percussion techniques on the keyboard. Adding a line for the saxophone simply seemed like the thing to do at the time, and it made it possible for me to have a live instrument for the presentation of my final project in the class I wrote it for. So I wrote the first two minutes of this piece with no intent outside of making pretty sounds. But I liked the sounds so much that I felt the need to turn them into a coherent musical exposition. After being stuck on the piece for about six months, I finally decided that the only way I was going to finish it was to make up an ending that worked and polish it until it was good.

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

Download score and parts (pdf) – 7.99
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Sample Score

I don’t have a sense of closure when a piece doesn’t seem to have any meaning outside of itself. So even when I had all but finished the piece I still couldn’t leave it alone because I didn’t understand what it meant. And yet I had already named the piece “Hide and Seek” simply because of the way it sounded. It seemed to be trying to go somewhere profound, but became sad when it couldn’t get there. Then it returned to searching for that profound place, this time without being concerned about the result.

The sound reminded me of my childhood games of hide and seek when I would be entertained by looking for my friends that had hidden from me. It was enjoyable not because I found them, but because I found them through a process of searching for them. But sometimes they would hide so well that I would grow weary of looking for them. But it would then be all the more exciting when I found them. But the purpose of the game wasn’t to find but to seek. So becoming irritated because I couldn’t find my friend was silly since all that should have resulted was enjoying the game longer.

While applying this concept to life itself, and thinking about the music in the context of the Purpose project, I finally realized that this piece is about searching for the purpose of life. Many people (myself included) become frustrated when attempting to work out the reason God put them on the earth. While there is the obvious Sunday school answer of “serving, worshipping, knowing, and glorifying God”, very few people are satisfied with that answer and justifiably so. Knowing and glorifying God is an infinitely broad description of our purpose since God is an infinite being. Saying that really means to do what we were doing all along but for a different reason and maybe throwing in a few religious practices to remind you of that reason. But as dissatisfying as the answer may be, it’s still the correct one. However, I’ve taken it a step further with this piece.

The beauty coupled with tension throughout the first fast section recounts the beauty of life in the midst of seeking the reason for our existence and being disillusioned by the answer we find. This results in a discontentment because without knowing the details of why we were put on this earth we have no idea of what to expect from life. So as we move into the slow section we wonder in vain why we exist and therefore what we should be doing with our lives. But in the midst of this anxiety, we find that beauty remains inherent all around us, even throughout our pain. This brings us to the second fast section in which the sounds that were harsh in the beginning have been reinterpreted and are beautiful. Nothing has changed but our reason for perceiving. We’ve realized that we exist for the sake of seeking the answer to the question of our existence. God put us here to ask questions and seek answers. Since God is throughout all aspects of creation, this ends up meaning that God put us here in order to seek Him. We still haven’t moved beyond the broad Sunday school answer, but this realization has satisfied me and justified my life and work.

Purpose hides and so we seek it. But along the way we find beauty and realize that the purpose of life is the process of searching for it.

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