To briefly recap from last post, "Youthful Adventures" concentrates on three different musical concepts: several related rhythmic motives, rich harmonic content, and the clashing interactions between them as longer, overarching melodies are added. This movement also establishes two conceptual ideas that run its course through the entire concerto: the soloist serving as a quasi-narrator, and the dichotomy between both good and bad memories that can be gained from a summer vacation experience, as a result of these previously-established concepts.
Since then, I've tweaked the orchestration for the music that had previously been written. This is my usual practice when a section of music, or a whole draft, is completed, and it's especially important here because of the fact that this piece is a concerto. If the ensemble isn't appropriately balanced when the soloist is present, then the soloist can't be heard. Easier to say and much more difficult to accomplish.
Mostly, new colors were added and shifted around in this case, but the musical concepts previously mentioned have largely stayed the same. For example, what was once an accentuated passage for muted trumpets is now reinforced by mallet percussion:
Similarly, mallet percussion adds color to another spot in the movement where there were initially only flourishing woodwinds for decoration:
These small, but I think necessary, changes help to enhance the colors featured in these spots, and they hopefully continue to create this sensation of adventure and flight that the movement so prominently features.
When I first began to collaborate with Dr. Jordan VanHemert on this concerto, he suggested that I research a book of saxophone multiphonic charts, as I had expressed interest in possibly including the extended technique within the framework of the piece. Let me just say that Daniel Kientzy's Les Sons Multiples Aux Saxophones is one of the most comprehensive resources I have ever seen which discusses saxophone multiphonics. Composers, if you aren't aware of this book, you need to be aware of this book. Highly recommended.
Three multiphonics are thus used in the first and third movements of Summertime Echoes, all of which are used to heighten some of the more tense and dramatic moments throughout. The first movement just uses one of Kientzy's multiphonics for soprano saxophone:
(Note that this may not be the final one used for the concerto, as Dr. VanHemert and I are still testing a few others for consideration in our collaborative process).
Speaking of tension, where we left off from the last blog post, a short falling transition leads us into the recapitulation:
Elements and motives established earlier in "Youthful Adventures" make their brief return where applicable. All of them in a sense have evolved at this point, including the rhythmic motors:
The use of transformed harmony (harkening back to its earlier, epic iteration):
And, the juxtaposition of these two ideas with the overarching, longer melody connecting them:
Where does the soloist fit in all of this? In this recap, the player at first re-introduces these various elements. This is met with various different responses by the ensemble, each with their own strikingly contrasting colors. The soloist's role as a narrator slowly but surely transforms into someone who interacts with how the ensemble responds to, and develops, this music. At times, soloist and ensemble are at odds with each other, but for everyone involved, this movement slowly continues to evolve and become its own identity, shaped by what the soloist introduces and how the ensemble responds to said material. This is something that will continued to be explored in the following two movements.
Over time, this adventure slowly but surely comes to an end, winding down with a final short burst of excitement:
The next blog post will discuss the second movement, "Idyllic Chronicles," in its entirety. Some of the conceptual ideas for it have changed at this point - the movement will explore the friendships and relationships that can potentially be made/continued over one's summer vacation experience. This can include youthful romance among other things. Similar questions (mentioned in a previous post) are posed that the movement will explore: Do these continue beyond summertime or end? What defines them? What can change over time between one or both people? The movement will still end with an offstage player - the instrument has been picked, but more on that to be discussed next time.
In the meantime, if you like what you heard and you're either a saxophone soloist or ensemble director reading this blog entry, please consider joining the consortium for the piece! Dr. VanHemert and I would love to collaborate with you!