shake off slumber, and beware

ensemble trumpet, electric guitar, piano
duration ~5:18
listen 01/14/2010 performance (on bandcamp);
Virginia Tech performance (on youtube)
score PDF, 197KB
alternate arrangements trumpet, vibraphone and marimba, and electric guitar (2012)
performance history 01/14/2010 by ASM at Abrons Art Center (Little ASM, come blow your trumpet);
November 2012 by Kelly Rossum, Annie Stevens, and Peter Amos at Christopher Newport University;
November 2012 by Kelly Rossum, Annie Stevens, and Joey Ballard at Virginia Tech
date completed 12/28/2009
series unblocking
era ASM

background

Determined to not repeat the last-minute desperation of sing, dance, renew, evolve (blues), I started work on this piece early. I had tried several approaches to countering writer’s block, and each had yielded different—though not uninteresting—results. What they had in common was that I found their unifying emotional theme well into the notation phase, rather than starting with it prior to the composition phase.

So when ASM decided to do a show for the Festival Of New Trumpet (FONT), I started right away on a piece for three trumpets. This, I was sure, would be when I push myself to create a piece truly worthy of the moniker “anti-social music.” It would be modern. It would balance traditional and contemporary harmony. It would be melodic. It would be grating. It would be beautiful.

Fast forward to the performance: I had three almost-begun pieces, and one completely different work for trumpet, electric guitar, and piano.

Rather than sew the almost-begun pieces into the finished work, I just kept start over from scratch. But not to hide these failures, I actually requested that the three trumpeters we had sight read these pieces as intermissions between each complete work on our program (all but one trumpeter was game for this). I generously titled them “this song was never heard” 1 through 3. They were, if nothing else, exercises that somehow brought me to the actual piece. While there are some intriguing parts of these (very short) pieces, they are not focused, and they wander even in their nascent state.

Originally, I was inspired by interlude music in an episode of Cowboy Bebop, but it was only a vague inspiration for using drumset and trumpet; it never got more solid than that. (As an aside, if you are unfamiliar with this show, or its music, do yourself a favor and go watch it. Then buy all the music you can find from it. Yoko Kanno’s creativity and plasticity is astounding.) The sketches began clearly enough, with the first evolving into the second. However, the third was unlike the previous two, and the final piece had only vague rhythmic similarities to all three predecessors.

I had this idea to write a piece for three trumpets and drumset. As you have heard, I failed three times. Somehow it all turned into this other piece, which is a setting for a scene of the opening credits for Vertigo and Mulholland Drive merged (netflix = danger). Kind of a reverse lullaby. Made all the more pretentious with the title (from The Tempest) because I know what chamber music aficionados crave; of course, you are now very impressed and wish to hear more of and about this. Screw that. As if you would tolerate a “song was never heard (4).” No way.

- ASM program notes, 01/14/2010

In my head, this was a piece about waking up from a dream only to find yourself in a storm (as much as it can be “about” anything). For some reason, I had The Tempest stuck in my head while writing this, so I scoured the text for a line from which to steal a title.

The form is roughly AA'BB'C, and is a deliberate attempt to use a song sensibility but to try and evolve my writing in a different way (in other words, the form is non-standard because the way I used the instrumentation, set the melody, and structured the harmony is rather standard). So the principal theme against a ostinato-like accompaniment, then re-stated with guitar added, then the counter-theme is stated, then re-stated and modified, while the piano and guitar trade functional duties and melodic assists. By the time all structure is abandoned and we’re in a “development” (or bridge) section, things start speeding up and we never really return to the initial theme verbatim or in its entirety. Instead, part of the principal theme is repeated, cascading down and then up, atop chromatic mediant(ish) changes that grow louder until the accompaniment (guitar and piano) blot it out with an aggressive battery of accented eighth notes and then suddenly vanish, leaving only the opening ostinato repeating quietly while the piano echoes the diminished counter-melody in its lowest register. And then everything blinks out.

This was premiered by Kelly Rossum, Ty Citerman, and myself at FONT in 2010. Later, Kelly asked if I could rearrange this piece, replacing piano with vibes. I had to re-write and re-distribute some of the guitar and keyboard parts (and lobby for inclusion of marimba, making the percussionist’s role even more difficult), but the result was sound, and that version was performed twice in 2012.