Since beginning the GHC I’ve written several times about how I’ll frequently change or recycle material within the same piece, and even though I wrote about Copland’s “tune jar” some time ago, it’s not often that I actually do what he did by saving discarded scraps to incorporate them into a fresh project. Perhaps they’re too laden with memories of the previous composition, or perhaps it just feels like a cop out, like I’m somehow cheating. Still, when the circumstances are right, it’s easy to “borrow” an unused idea from another piece. I think that’s what’s going on with the third movement of GHC. Also, I’m in possession of a brand-spanking new digital camera…so lots of pics of the nastier side of composition.
I’ve also written about the other piece I worked on this past summer, the Sonatina for Violin and Piano, due to be premiered early next month in Phoenix. I recently came across some unused sketches for the second movement of this piece…a simple, diatonic ground bass with a varied upper voice (which sounds a little like a song by Adele, strangely enough). This simple framework would have eventually supported a set of pseudo-variations: its simple nature would have easily allowed for expansion, extension, and overall elaboration. In the end this form and concept didn’t fit in with the rest of the Sonatina, so I set it aside and forgot about it.
Fast forward to a couple of days ago: while shuffling through a big stack of papers I happened upon this single page and thought to myself, “Boy, that sure would make an interesting slow movement for the GHC!“ What would have been a catalog of various bowings and violin techniques is quickly becoming a similar compendium of tremolos and other types of mallet-strokes for glass xylophone.
The process of orchestrating the second movement continues, with a great deal of help from my teacher, Stephen Gryc. Dr. Gryc has a number of beautifully scored wind ensemble works to his credit, so studying with him has opened my eyes to all the possibilities and pitfalls of writing for this ensemble. It’s been especially helpful to try out ways of lightening the ensemble sound, since the glass xylophone (one of the main instruments in the soloist’s battery) is a fairly quiet instrument. I’ve also just sent off the first draft of this movement to Matthew Coley, who has written back enthusiastically, and with his own suggestions about the solo part. This is always a big step in the process: sending the first hints of what’s to come to a patient performer. Luckily Matthew and I are on the same page regarding what these instruments can do (he should know, after all, and I’m making only educated guesses at best!) and how they should be used in this piece.