Windfall : for solo oboe
by Elliott Gyger (1997)
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Although the oboe is (was!) my own instrument, it has been some fourteen years since I last attempted to write a solo work for it. Solo wind is, to my mind, one of the greatest challenges a composer can face. There is absolutely nowhere to hide; everything depends on the line. In the course of the composition of Windfall, I was lucky enough to be working with two different composition teachers simultaneously (Andrew Imbrie and Mario Davidovsky), and their constant tugging in almost opposite directions was, paradoxically enough, extremely helpful!
The line in Windfall is based around a quasi-serial succession of pitches (although treated with considerable freedom). From section to section, however, this "series" is intervallically expanded or contracted to fit different registral spaces. At the beginning, for example, it is compressed into a span of just over a major second through the use of microtones; less than a minute later, the range has expanded to a major seventh; a little later still, it has shrunk again to an augmented fourth; and so on throughout the piece, until just before the end the whole range of the instrument is in play. The very different characters the material acquires in different sections give the piece something of the feel of a set of variations. This is undercut by the tendency of the gestures of one section to evolve into those of the next, but every now and then the music turns a corner and finds a "windfall" - an unexpected development which opens up new possibilities.
When broken into its two components, the title may also be taken as reflecting something of the music's character (particularly the swirling gestures of the opening), and its overall registral trajectory. The oboe differs fundamentally from the flute and clarinet in that its lowest register is its strongest; Windfall makes use of this characteristic by inverting the usual registral arc, beginning high up and falling to the climax point.
Duration: 11 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Professional.
First performance: by Linda Walsh — 4 Jun 98. International Double Reed Society Conference, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA
Performances of this work
4 Jun 98: International Double Reed Society Conference, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA. Featuring Linda Walsh.
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