gumdrops and kittens

ensemble tango quartet (violin, accordion, piano, and string bass)
duration ~3:38
score PDF, 205KB
performance history 05/27/2010 by ASM at Space on White (CD Release Party! Mucho Mas Muchomas!)
date completed 05/03/2010


This was a re-arrangement of Pat Muchmore’s “Gumdrops and Kittens - Hallowmas Fanfare '03”, which I first heard at a show in Philadelphia in 2005. The original is a striking piece, it’s short (re-arranging a long Muchmore piece is a more challenging proposition than I was ready for), and you can hear it on ASM’s release Fracture: The Music of Pat Muchmore.

Pat’s scores—like his music—are beautiful, creative things. Whereas many of us place little dots on grids to recreate the performance, Pat creates a visual expression of the sound to generate, or the feeling to express. You could frame his manuscripts for display as art in and of themselves (as I’m sure has been done). So the bar was already pretty high when dealing with his work at all.

There’s not much to say about this piece beyond the original program notes:

I chose this piece for two reasons: 1) I remember liking it the first time I heard it, and 2) it’s short. To me, this piece is kind of perfectly arranged as is – he really nails the aesthetic (with both the writing and the sound of the amplified quartet). So I wanted to do a very quiet, spooky version of the piece, rather than just battering it with electric guitars and overdriven organ. I wanted to hear this piece as done by Piazzolla’s New Tango Quintet. This morphed into using some of the instrumentation (accordion for bandoneon, no guitar, etc) and but trying to instill that style. [NOTE: this may be folly. As a friend sarcastically remarked, “Yeah, I hear that and I think: TANGO.”] Anyway, I kept much of the original structure (the beginning and ending I wanted very similar to the original) and used the theme in a straightforward melodic fashion, exploiting the minor seconds as much as I could to keep it from sounding too intentionally pretty. I wanted to get the piece – and myself – out of their comfort zones. It is entirely possible that this arrangement is shit, but you should bob your head when you can.

- ASM program notes, 05/27/2010

Interestingly, in my score where I tried to be most true to the original piece, I had to notate much more in the direction of the original score than when it really diverged to (what could be politely considered) tango. So the score’s opening and closing resembles Pat’s notational style a lot more than it resembles mine. So much so that I needed to add performance notes to it to ease the translation:

Pardon some of the crudeness of the notation. All clusters are chromatic, no white-key or black-key only clusters.

VIOLIN: m 54-59 (leading up to letter C), I know those may not be possible. If not, leave off the bottom note.

ACCORDION: all registers on (except for the bass registers at two measures after letter C, where it should be the highest one only, just for the duration of that held cluster). One measure after letter C, those are paw mash clusters, keyboard hand only. The measure after that is a paw mash cluster on the button side only – the notehead on top of the cluster is only indicating duration – this part is just quiet breathing in the background. At the end, the intention is that the notes turn into a local cluster, and notes get added above and below (in rhythm), using the left hand also, as it approaches the end.

PIANO: m 4 & 8 have you putting your entire forearm down, from Ab to E, silently, and then striking the low register of the keyboard hard to get the held notes to ring – the sustain pedal is not used until after that strike each time.

BASS: once you get to letter A, it’s pretty much a jazz part until m 53 goes back to arco (it comes up quickly). Let me know if it’s impossible at letter D. The intention with the last two measures is to move back down to the bottom of the range, playing a slightly widening cluster as you go. As best as you can.

I played the piano for this piece’s only (unrecorded) performance, alongside Hubert Chen, Kamala Sankaram, and Brad Kemp. Thanks to Pat for being such a good sport.