When I started studying composition in college, I remember my teacher, Dr. Dougherty, telling me that when I looked back at the music I was writing now from a distance of five or ten years, it would be like getting a postcard from the past. More than eight years later, I’m beginning to realize just how true that is.
Maybe this sounds weird, but most of my compositions, when I look back at them, hold some element of mystery to me. As much as my philosophy of composition – why I write – has remained more or less unchanged, the fact is that every piece I write changes me somehow, helps me grow and find my voice, involves different methods and mindsets. So when I listen to an older piece of mine from where I am now in my journey, I sometimes wonder how I was ever able to come up with it in the first place.
My most recent project is an orchestral arrangement of one of my compositions from my undergrad years. I’m planning to release it on October 25, which is the seven-year anniversary of my senior recital, and also the day the original piece was premiered. I’ll get back to that in a bit…but first, a little backstory on what inspired this new/old work.
After releasing my fourth Psalm Series piece last December, I felt mentally exhausted. I decided I needed to take a break from wind ensemble writing and do something else for awhile. Little did I know that something else would be teaching a semester of music theory at my alma mater, Drake University.
Now, if you know me personally or have read some of my posts from years past, you probably know that public speaking and I are not exactly best friends. But when an opportunity to teach a subject I love at a place that helped make me who I am today was literally just dropped into my lap, how could I say no?
Out of my comfort zone? Um…YES.
Worth it? Oh yeah! And I’d do it again.
When the class ended in May, I still didn’t have a next project lined up. I suppose it was only natural that I would turn to my years at Drake for inspiration, having been so vividly reminded of that time in my life by going back and teaching there.
So I dusted off the second movement of my Sonata for Clarinet and Piano and transcribed the piano part for orchestra, under the stand-alone title Sonnet for Clarinet and Orchestra. (Because why not? Also because it’s been a good four years since I’ve written for strings, and I needed to dust off that skill as well…) The original piece was completed in 2008, but eight years and dozens of compositions later, it’s still one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. It was heavily modeled after the second movement of Eric Ewazen’s Sonata for Trumpet and Piano, which I was studying in my trumpet lessons at the time and which to me is one of the most perfect pieces of music ever to grace the face of the earth. (Not that I have an opinion or anything…)
The clarinet part was written for an extraordinarily talented friend and colleague of mine, Micah Wright, who premiered the piece at my senior recital in 2009, along with pianist Christa Pearson. You can listen to the second movement below, or check out my SoundCloud page to hear the complete piece.
I don’t know what’s next after this, but I’ve certainly enjoyed receiving this postcard from the past, and I look forward to many more in the years to come.
P.S. If you’re curious about the picture above, no, there are no palm trees in Iowa. (At least not that I know of…) This picture was taken in Florida in March of 2008 when the Drake men’s basketball team made the NCAA tournament and I was there with the pep band. (Thus the oversized jersey, haha!)
[September 26, 2016]