Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Riparian Sketch for Small Orchestra

riparian - adj: of, situated, or dwelling on the bank of a river or other body of water

The body of water in question here is a bayou; specifically, Bayou Terrebonne. I've been using the name "sketch" previously to denote short, quickly written pieces that don't neatly fit into an established form. In this case, however, I mean the term a little more literally. This is a musical sketch of a bayouside scene. Roughly speaking, the strings represent the water, with the harp and winds variously portraying the sun, animals, plants and ground. The instrumentation is for a full string section and harp, with only one each of flute, clarinet, English horn, bassoon, trumpet, French horn, trombone, and tuba, hence the "Small Orchestra" part of the title.

I started this back in 2010, sketching out a general idea of strings slowly oscillating at different speeds, with the winds and harp slowly ascending an F major scale spread among different octaves, sometimes overlapping, sometimes leaving gaps, mostly fading in and out. The initial chord, from bottom to top, is F-C-E-D-G, which doesn't seem very F major-y, but with the stepwise back and forth motion of the string parts and their differing speeds, they occasionally and very briefly coalesce into an F major chord. I set it aside for a few years, because it wasn't very exciting; it still isn't, really, but I think it has other redeeming qualities. I think it's possible to be relaxing without being boring, and I hope that's what this piece manages to do.

Is this minimalism? I don't know, but if so, it's not intentional; this is just how the idea worked out. 

Update - 8/7: The video was cutting off around the 2:45 mark; not sure if it's been that way all along, so I re-uploaded it. If you've had it stop like that, give it another try, because you've missed the best part.

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