On Sunday, April 13th, Black Bayou Brass will premiere six new works for brass trio. These pieces were submitted in response to a call for scores from the Mid-South Chapter of NACUSA (National Association of Composers/USA). According to its website, NACUSA is “devoted to the promotion and performance of American concert hall music,” and they are certainly fulfilling their mission! Our trio is always interested in new music, and we eagerly awaited the arrival of scores once the call was announced. We quickly received more scores than we could prepare in the brief time we had (the deadline for submissions was March 1), but hopefully we will be able to perform all of the music we received at some point in the future.
As for Sunday’s program, a wide variety of styles and approaches to brass writing are represented. Here’s a list of the titles and composers.
- Flotsam, Mel Mobley
- Four Meditations with Tuning, Olga Harris
- Vagaries and Sundries, Alan Goldspiel
- Ja Ja Aá, Joe L. Alexander
- Three Roads Diverged, Ken Davies
- Incidental Brass Music, Valentin Bogdan
All of the works are very playable, but not without their challenges. Perhaps the most interesting part of the rehearsal process was discovering each composer’s musical voice, both in individual parts and in their writing for the ensemble as a whole. Contrary to what you may have heard about “modern” music, much of the material is tonal (or tonally-inspired), and often very tuneful. Many of the composers also seem to have been influenced by the heroic fanfares and flourishes which distinguish much of the brass literature, but others went in a different direction, exploring some very unique colors and sonorities. The image above is my stand setup (in my teaching studio) for Mel Mobley’s Flotsam, a quasi-antiphonal work which asks the players to rotate during and in between musical statements. The result is very interesting (think Doppler effect). Surprisingly, there is very little muting (or hand stopping for the horn) in any of these works, but that is ok with me because I think those effects can sometimes be overdone.
If this brief post makes you curious about these new works, come out to our concert (5:00 p.m., April 13th, University of Louisiana at Monroe). If live out of the area but are still interested in hearing the premieres, I’ll plan to post some video and or audio samples from the concert – with the composers’ permission, of course!