Cumberdeen Dam V & T : for solo bassoon
by Hollis Taylor (2008)
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This five-movement solo work coalesces a number of genres that I have played in as a practising violinist. There is a conventional theme and variations, except that the theme comes in the middle movement rather than at the beginning. The pied butcherbird upon which the work is based sings in rushed gusts of notes; the effect is anticipatory, like beats two-three of a Viennese waltz or beats two and four of an up-tempo bluegrass number. The angularity of the essentially five-bar phrases is appealing. One technique of the birdsong seems particularly familiar to the human ear: in what is conventional fare in works for solo instruments, two separate voices are implied by the octave or more spread between motivic segments and the qualitative difference between the lower and higher material. Octave displacement above and beyond the original birdsong figures in the work.
"Notturno" gives a nod to a jazz ballad the way it might be delivered by a saxophonist. "Capriccio" has an étude-like quality; the middle section can be improvised. A composed part is written for non-improvisers. "Tema" stays close to the original field transcription. Although the birdsong has inter-phrase intervals, most of them are swallowed up in "Tema," allowing just enough time for the bassoonist to breath. This mimics the rushed feeling imparted by the bird. "Multifonica" is the breath that was not allowed in the previous movement. The meditation ends with a sudden fanfare of birdsong, just as at times in the quiet of pre-dawn or twilight, a pied butcherbird phrase will leap out of nowhere. "Toccata" is a blues étude. Both "Toccata" and "Capriccio" rely on canonic techniques such as inversion and retrograde. The theme is treated, transposed, cut-and-pasted, and manipulated. A crucial consideration is that, despite the cut-up process, the ear can follow the clarity of the theme at all times, rather than becoming lost in a blur of notes.
Duration: 9 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Professional or experienced student
Contents note: 1. Notturno -- 2. Capriccio -- 3. Tema -- 4. Multifonica -- 5. Toccata.
Dedication note: For Joanne Cannon
APRA/UWS Composition award 2008
- Influenced by: Birdsong
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