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Variations on a Chinstrap, Op. 60 (2014)

For Wind Quintet

Live Performance:

Benton Gordon, flute; Katie Jones, oboe; Joe Clark, clarinet; Andrea Donze, bassoon; Zoe Resmer, horn

Duration: 2'40"


  • Flute/Piccolo
  • Oboe
  • Bb Clarinet
  • Horn
  • Bassoon

Program Notes:

Sometimes, things just happen. If you're lucky, you get a wind quintet out of it.

On one chilly Tuesday evening, I was fortunate enough to run into Perry and his wind quintet as we were getting out of separate rehearsals. Perry was off to shave, having decided to abandon "No-Shave November" due to itchiness and general pointlessness. For some reason, we all decided to accompany him. It turned into a multi-stage process as we had him model various modes of facial hair. When talking about chinstraps and what, exactly, they entail, the phrase "Variations on a Chinstrap" was uttered. (Note that the use of the passive voice is intentional, as I can't recall by whom it was uttered.) It was subsequently remarked that that would be a good name for a piece - and thus this piece was born.

While procrastinating on writing essays on the train ride home for Thanksgiving break, it seemed an opportune time to write a quintet for my friends. Already from that fateful night, I knew how it would begin - a grand theater opening, a run in the flute, then a circus march. As I sat down to write, it became quickly apparent that this was not turning out to be a serious work. Rather than revising, I decided to embrace the distinction. People come in "late", play "wrong notes", and rampantly quote works by more serious composers. Various performance effects are indicated to enhance the overall mood of comic incompetence. These may be strictly adhered to, totally ignored, or used simply as a starting point at the discretion of the group. Playing music should be a joy - so don't feel pressured to "honor the composer's intention" or to play exactly what's on the page.

Shaving during performance is only suggested, not required.