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Student composers debut original music

In a fall Composition class, students of Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music John David Earnest composed works for public performance on Oct. 2. Listen to recordings of his students’ work below while reading what they have to say about their newest musical creations.

Autumn Variations, for clarinet, cello and piano
Calvin Brigham ’17
This new work, my first foray into a theme and variations structure, is a piece composed in four parts. Each of the four segments is written in a rounded binary form, in which an A section is followed by a B section, which ultimately ends with a segment of the A section. The first part of the piece, a presentation of the theme, is a simple duet between clarinet and cello. Directly after, the theme is modified to fit into a quick waltz in the first variation, and adds a basic piano accompaniment. The second variation reduces the former to a sparsely-voiced trio with minimal chordal movement. As the theme continues to appear, it begins to fragment into bits and pieces. The final variation reunites the theme into a coherent melody.

La Mer, for solo piano
Milo Cantor ’17
This work is the first of my “Six Impressions for Piano.” It is modeled after the Impressionist style of Claude Debussy. A complex harmonic syntax accompanies melodies that portray the unpredictability of the sea.

Wilderness Myth, for string quartet
Neal Christopherson, director of institutional research
My goal for this composition was to write a longer piece that could be played by a larger ensemble. This lofty goal was soon reduced to writing for a string quintet. I took large portions of the first two movements of a brass quintet I wrote in fall 2014, plus a main theme of a “Scherzino” I wrote in spring 2015 for piano, flute and cello, and rewrote them for strings. This music originally began as an attempt to set an epic poem to music. As it developed, the music slowly lost all connection to the original poem, but maintained the feeling of myth and storytelling. The first movement starts in a minor key, a character moving through a wilderness full of perils. We then transition to a slower, more contemplative section, before returning to a repeat of the original theme, restated in a different key. The final section is more action packed, as we might expect at the end of a good story.

Automaton Suite, for clarinet, bassoon and percussion
Jeffrey Maher ’18
My piece is a three-movement character suite focused on representing the idea of clockwork in music. Automata are intricate clockwork machines that are designed to look like people; they attempt to mimic human motion as they complete various tasks, such as writing a letter or creating a drawing. The first movement of the suite, “Gears,” is meant to imitate mechanical motion and the meshing of gears and cogs. This is contrasted by the second movement, “The Watchmaker's Daughter,” which displays how even a simple melody can carry a lot of human emotion. The final movement, “Automaton Doll,” takes these two disparate ideas and blends them together. The auxiliary percussion instruments return here, representing the clockwork mechanisms as they take on human form.

Family Portrait, for trombone and piano
Aiyana Mehta ’18
My piece is a character suite consisting of three movements. The first one, “Parents in the Kitchen,” paints a picture of a couple sitting in the kitchen having a conversation that ranges from love to arguments. While the parents talk, their baby sleeps upstairs, leading to the next movement, “Baby in the Nursery,” a sweet lullaby that lures the baby to sleep. In the next room, two siblings play together and inevitably fight over who gets which toys: “Siblings in the Bedroom” is a portrayal of this scuffle.

Published on Oct 11, 2016
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