I couldn’t be happier with the the premiere of my first trumpet concerto, Voyages. The premiere took place on October 16 with the College of St. Benedict & St. Johns Wind Ensemble with Justin T. Zanchuk leading the ensemble.
I hope to have video excerpts of the premiere available very soon. Below are the program notes for the piece:
Concerto for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble
Voyages could be considered an autobiographical composition. The concerto explores different styles and instruments, uses electronics, and is an homage to all of the great composers, performers, and mentors that helped shape my creative pursuits. It includes many of the things that I love to do as a performer (improvisation and using electronics being just a couple), and requires a great degree of versatility from the soloist and the ensemble. It is presented in the traditional three movements, but each movement is vastly different stylistically and the soloist changes instruments for each movement.
Origins (Movement 1)
Origins contains elements of many styles and composers that have influenced me both as a composer and as a trumpet player. I chose C trumpet for this movement as many of my favorite trumpet concerti come from the modern classical works by French composers Jolivét, Tomasi, Chaynes, and Desenclos, who all primarily wrote for the C trumpet. In 2009, I recorded a solo CD (Confronting Inertia) that featured new music written in classical style by jazz composers or composers with significant jazz background. Ten years after that project, I took my own shot at that idea by writing a piece in classical style, but with many of the musical elements more commonly associated with jazz. My primary influences for this movement are the big band music by Maria Schneider and John Hollenbeck. While they take many classical elements (woodwind doublings, mutes, etc.) and put them into a big band setting, I flipped that idea and took jazz elements and put them into the Wind Ensemble. In addition, the trumpet works of Joseph Turrin, who worked frequently with the great (now retired) New York Philharmonic principal trumpet Philip Smith, are very influential in the pacing and character of the solo lines throughout this movement.
Diffusive Echoes (Movement 2)
I am a huge fan of impressionist French artist Claude Monet. From 1890-1891, Monet painted 25 versions of the same set of Haystacks (that were simply used to store grains by his neighbor). While the seasons and surroundings changed tremendously, the constant on the canvas was always the relatively mundane Haystacks. The series of paintings are often referenced as a study in color and mood as depending on the time of day or time of year, the observer would have a totally different experience looking at the Haystacks. I’ve always wanted to do a musical version of this concept, and this second movement is an exploration of color and texture with the constant being the repeated G in the marimba. I spent a lot of time at the piano exploring different harmonic sounds and colors that worked with that constant note, and used mutes in the brass to expand the already vast amount of colors produced by the instruments in the wind ensemble.
Much of this movement could be classified as aleatoric (chance music) minimalist music, being that there are aspects that are undefined, and there is a lot of repetition. Players are given a musical idea/cell and are asked to repeat that idea for an undetermined amount of time creating unlimited textures and colors. This also allows the piece to be completely different every time it is performed. The solo part is extremely free and depending on the pacing could vastly change the length of the movement. I chose flugelhorn for this movement as it has a different color spectrum than the trumpet. The electronics used here are relatively simple (reverb, delay/echo), but add additional timbres and textures to the piece. The second half of this movement is highly influenced by the music of composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass and uses a lot of cellular repetition and cellular improvisation.
Dissension of Dreams (Movement 3)
The final movement was originally conceived and created for a different medium. I wrote the first version of this movement as a trumpet sextet featuring several members of the ensemble on individual solos. Upon hearing this piece on a visit to Colorado, Justin Zanchuk told me that he thought the piece could work really well if adapted for Wind Ensemble. A couple years later, when I began working on this project, I combined all of the individual solos into one part and orchestrated the rest for Wind Ensemble.
Dissension of Dreams refers to a state when you are deeply involved in one dream, and somehow end up being separated or infiltrated by another idea or dream, with the infiltrating idea gradually and eventually taking over as the new reality. The brass chorale at the beginning of the movement is the first departure into the dream state.
I chose the B-Flat trumpet for this movement as it has a requires a lot of jazz inflection and idiomatic material including an alternate fingering technique used frequently by my favorite jazz trumpeter of all time, Freddie Hubbard. It is also the only movement that uses improvisation over chord changes. The group improvisation heard in the middle of this movement uses the same harmonic cell idea that was used in movement two.