Patterns and Soundscapes explores the concept album format, popularized in the late 1960s and into modern times by artists such as the Who, Pink Floyd, and Frank Zappa. Specifically, I sought to adapt this format as a compositional process aimed towards the completion of a large-scale work that can be presented in album format and live performance. Further influenced by the concept album, I sought to create pieces consisting of similar musical techniques, motivic ideas, and harmonic language, so that each piece could be performed on its own or be combined as a multi-movement work.
I began writing this work in the spring of 2019, with “Colored Red Currents” for string quartet and “Conspiracy Wall” for two drum sets. After realizing that both pieces had a similar sound and style, I began to consider how they could function within an album format, and how they could also work together to form a large-scale musical work. I then decided that each subsequent piece, in addition to being composed of similar musical ideas, would be written in a manner that allowed for seamless transitions between the end of one and the beginning of another, and would also introduce the instrumentation making up the full ensemble in the last movement.
This work begins with the sparkling and rapid string quartet, “Colored Red Currents,” then moves to the energetic and groove based “Conspiracy Wall” for two drum sets, the meditative “Interlude” for solo viola and electronics, and the quick and mechanical “Beat Frequency” for alto saxophone, bass clarinet, and electronics. The work ends with “ALL IN,” where the full ensemble is finally formed, and all of the patterns and soundscapes come together to form a bombastic and wild finale.
Performances of three prominent, full-time brass chamber ensembles (the Canadian Brass, Mnozil Brass, and Trompettes de Lyon), are studied for their inclusion of entertainment outside the bounds of traditional music performance. The various additions include acting, choreography, novel changes in instrumentation, props, technical exhibitions, audience interaction, and inherently humorous arrangements. These are identified, categorized, and analyzed for frequency of use. Representative scenes from each ensemble are compared for similarities with the intent of establishing general rules for the usage of each non-traditional element. Differences in overall show structure, compared to that of traditional chamber ensembles, are also discussed.
In a separate component of this project, the author wrote an original show based on the above research, and performed it with the Grand Valley State University Faculty Brass Quintet. The process of creation and observations of rehearsal and performance settings are included in this document to guide the efforts of other prospective show-writers.
Bruegel is a four movement composition inspired by the paintings and engravings of Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569). It is scored for Bass Clarinet in Bb, Electric Guitar, One Percussionist (Glockenspiel, Woodblock, Snare, Kick Drum, and Brake Drums), Piano and String Quartet. Each movement explores a painting or engraving from Bruegel’s catalog of works and attempts to embody each piece of art through the use of certain compositional techniques.
The Cripples (Movement I) explores layered rhythms and disjunct melodic fragments which play on the idea of Bruegel’s painting of crippled men trampling over each other and stumbling. Small moments of balance are found throughout only to be lost. Patience (Movement II) is based on an early engraving of Bruegel, which depicts a lone woman who represents a virtue, in this case patience, surrounded by sin and vices. Juxtaposed textures are presented with patience eventually finding itself victorious to temptation. Children’s Games (Movement III) explores a painting which depicts a large number of children playing a plethora of different games. The movement uses graphic notation and plays with the idea of games to create a compositional “game” for the ensemble. Big Fish Eat Little Fish (Movement IV) depicts a large fish eating several smaller fish. A process is introduced which plays on the idea of increasing density and lasts for the bulk of the movement.
This paper is the writing component of a project the author under took to create an entertaining program for a chamber ensemble. It discusses ways for chamber ensembles to create entertaining concert programs for today's audiences. Information was gathered by analyzing four interesting and successful groups--The Canadian Brass, Mnozil Brass, Les Trompettes de Lyon, and The Blue Man Group--and identifying common traits. These traits help facilitate the ultimate goal of making connections with audiences and include originality, comedy, choreography, memorization, continuous presentation, musical appeal, high quality presentations, and the proper personnel. These attributes were then implemented into the author's experimental group, the Omni Brass Ensemble, for testing with live audiences. Materials were used from published interviews, articles, newspapers, ensemble websites, and recordings of their performances. From the author's performances with the Omni Brass Ensemble, indications are that these findings work with live audiences.