Earning the Muse (2009)
Instrumentation: saxophone quartet
Premiere Performance: 1/09/2011 - Mana Quartet - Peace Memorial Church - Clearwater, FL
When asked about the creative process in writing music, composers have often cited people, places, or a particular thing which inspire them to write. This muse gives the composer a plethora of ideas to sift through and the ability to string together thoughts, emotions, and patterns in a meaningful way. I have yet to discover what the one thing that inspires me to write is. Perhaps I have yet to earn my muse, but I have one particular compositional process which I tend to mine for ideas—dodecaphony.
In the first movement of "Earning the Muse," I present nine pitches of a tone row in one voice with the remaining three pitches completed by another voice. The first nine pitches reoccur throughout the movement and serve as the motivic device for the construct of the remainder of the work. While rooted in the twelve tone system, I do not take a serialistic approach. I infuse tonal influences with advanced chromaticism.
The second movement is a meditation on the sonic possibilities derivative of combining various permutations of the original row form. On the surface it would seem that the music would be therefore void of harmonic progression and would result in nonsensical clusters of sound. Yet, I am amazed at the possibilities of finding natural harmonic progressions. After all, a harmonic progression is merely a series of musical chords that "aims for a definite goal" of establishing (or contradicting) a tonal center—in this case a movable tonal center.
In writing this piece, I came to the realization that while the twelve tone system strives to make all pitches equal, some pitches are more equal than others. The final movement of "Earning the Muse" explores this realization. In this movement, the full chromatic is used and constantly circulates, but permutational devices are ignored. Additionally, permutational devices are used but not on the full chromatic. Furthermore, overtly tonal progressions are also employed. Any form, aesthetic unity, or linear progressions, which are perceived when hearing the work in its entirety, have developed naturally by following this personally intuitive compositional method.
The work was commissioned by the Mana Saxophone Quartet and was premiered on the Peace Memorial Concert Series, January 9, 2011, in Clearwater, FL.