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Indus, Op. 74 (2016)

For Double Brass Quintet

Live Performance:

Nicole Gillotti, Jeff Sirois, C trumpets; Emmett O'Brien, Wes Carroll, Bb trumpets; Jessica Mingee, Clark Stevens, horns; Walker Cook, Matt Welch, trombones; Austin Cooper, Ryne Dresbach, tubas

Duration: 9'30"

  1. I. Indistinct
  2. II. Indiscrete
  3. III. Indistinguishable

Instrumentation:

  • 2 Trumpets in C (both with straight mute)
  • 2 Cornets in Bb (one with straight mute)
  • 2 Horns in F
  • 2 Trombones (one with straight mute)
  • 2 Tubas

Program Notes:

I attended the Bay View Music Festival in the summer of 2015. While there, the Harbor Horns graciously agreed to premiere my recently-completed horn quartet, the "Cor-tet", Op. 63. I thus found myself at one of the brass choir outreach concerts organized by Brian Buerkle of Spectrum Brass. Following the Harbor Horns' performance, Brian turned to me and asked if I would be interested in writing a piece for double brass quintet for the following summer. My mind immediately began spinning with possibilities, even as the concert continued. We were in a large, echoing church space, so my interest in staging came to the forefront. It's all well and good to have the two brass quintets close together, but what sort of sonic effects could be created if they were far apart in such a cavernous space? Movement titles flitted through - Indistinct, Indiscrete, Indistinguishable, perhaps referring to the relative quality of sound or physical separation of the two groups in different locations? What do they have in common? It took a bit, but the answer came: Indus. The Indus River, obviously, runs through India. A piece for double brass quintet based on traditional Indian music - now that would be something new! I did a fair deal of research into Indian Classical music and synthesized as much as I was able to in a short time. The long and the short of it is - double brass quintet is really not an ideal medium to perform such music. However, by fitting a round peg into a square hole, so to speak, I think I may have created something all my own, hopefully without offending everybody in the process! For those well-versed in the Indian Classical tradition, some more specific notes follow: I chose Raag Marwa, a raga traditionally sung in the late afternoon hours up until sunset - the time that this commission was first offered, and reminiscent of the many long afternoon hours I spent at Bay View. The three movements roughly outline the structure of a traditional raga performance. The first respresents the alap, before the tabla (drums) enters - the notes of the raga are gradually introduced. The "tabla" (here the ostinato brass quintet) enters at the beginning of the second movement, accompanying three bandishes (traditional Indian folk songs) at ever-faster tempos. The third movement is the jhala, the fastest part of the raga, that demonstrates virtuosity at dizzying tempos and closes the performance. The tempo increases by a factor of 24 from the second movement to the end of the piece.