Septet for Winds and Percussion (2008)

Composed: May-July 2008
Duration: approx. 15 minutes
Premiere: February 20, 2009; Hemmle Recital Hall at Texas Tech University
Forces: Flute, Clarinet (B-flat), Tenor/Baritone Saxophone, Trombone, Tuba, Percussion (2 players)

Availability:
This work (score and parts) is available for complimentary download. Please visit our web store.

 

Adobe PDF Item Program of the Premiere (PDF, 180 KB)
Program Notes in English and German (Word document)
1st Movement, 2nd Movement3rd Movement
youtube_vsm Performance footage on Tim Jansa’s YouTube channel

 

 

NOTES

The composition of this piece was made possible through a commission from Dr. Kevin Wass of the Texas Tech School of Music. The premiere took place on February 20, 2009, at Hemmle Recital Hall on the campus of Texas Tech University and was web-cast live on the Internet.

The performers at the premiere were:
Lisa Garner-Santa
, flute; David Shea, clarinet; David Dees, saxophone; James Decker, trombone; Kevin Wass, tuba; Lisa Rogers and Ian Rollins, percussion

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Program Notes:

The “Septet for Winds and Percussion” was composed in the summer of 2008 on commission from tubist Dr. Kevin Wass at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX. It was first premiered on February 20, 2009.

A rather stormy beginning immediately thrusts the listener into the piece and serves as a brief and subliminal introduction to the main motif of the work: a melodic sequence of 2 quarter and 3 eighth notes that permeates the entire first and third movements and is first heard in the low brass voices. After several complex rhythmic alternations and meter changes, the movement quickly settles into a slower B-part of almost hypnotic nature, written in 5/8 meter and underscored by conga drums and marimba. This section leads into a full recapitulation of the A-part, culminating in the first – yet still partial – exposition of the mentioned main motif.

The second movement showcases the lyrical and very expressive upper register of the tuba in a duet with the flute, which opens the movement. The 9/8 meter not only enables the melody to flow beautifully, but also ties together the individual sections of this work and anticipates the full revelation of the main motif in the finale.

A mysterious sequence of short musical statements that borrow from the melodic material of the previous two sections opens the third and final movement and brings back both rhythmic elements of the first and lyrical ideas of the second movement. Accompanied by the snare drum, the complete main motif finally surfaces first in the tuba and, slowly building momentum, drives the piece to its ultimate rousing conclusion.

The primary challenge in composing this piece was to reconcile the somewhat motley combination of instruments (flute, clarinet, saxophone, trombone, tuba, and percussion) all while creating and maintaining a balanced and harmonious ensemble. The score called for a varied, yet idiomatic approach toward overall instrumentation both for the winds but also, and especially, for percussion which was to function in a rather exposed role similar to that of the other soloists. The final selection of the percussion instruments progressed through several initial trials and sketches, some of which turned out to be quite comical and were reminiscent a poorly written soundtrack to a 1960s British television series. This ultimately prompted the elimination of several of the original percussion instruments from the score. However, it soon became obvious that the score would call for an additional percussionist to produce the desired results. The initial “Sextet for Winds and Percussion” became a septet.

The septet is by far the “jazziest” but also one of the most fun musical works by composer Tim Jansa, and, even though designed as a work for chamber ensemble, a conductor is frequently used for performances to assure the accurate interpretation of the many transitions and tempo changes.

For the composer it was a true pleasure to write this piece, and the audience will hopefully enjoy it as much as he did creating it.

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Notes for the Premiere Performance:

“Once in a while, a composer has the opportunity to engage in a project that presents both specific challenges as well as the promise of developing and growing new skills. For me, this was exactly the case with the ‘Septet for Winds and Percussion’.

When I was contacted by tubist Dr. Kevin Wass at Texas Tech University in December of 2007 – we had met earlier that year during the International Euphonium Institute 2007 at Emory University in Atlanta, GA – the possibility of him commissioning a piece was initially a mere afterthought, but quickly developed into a specific project idea: a piece in several movements for Kevin and a handful of his friends and fellow Texas Tech faculty.

The primary challenge for me was to reconcile the somewhat motley combination of instruments (flute, clarinet, saxophone, trombone, tuba, and percussion) to create a balanced and harmonious ensemble; the second was that I had never written for percussion in such an exposed, quasi solo role: my experience with percussion had been in a purely orchestral setting using the most common instruments, and solely for effect creation through rather ordinary techniques. The proposed score called for a much more varied and idiomatic approach toward overall instrumentation both for the winds but also, and especially, for percussion.

The initial trials and sketches turned out to be quite comical and sounded more like a poorly written soundtrack to a 1960s British television series, which prompted me to eliminate several of the original percussion instruments from the score, eventually settling on the final set. However, I soon realized that the score would call for an additional percussionist to produce the desired results. So the initial sextet quickly became a septet.

The ‘Septet for Winds and Percussion’ is by far the “jazziest” but also one of the most fun pieces of music I have ever had the pleasure of writing, and I hope the audience will enjoy it as much as I did composing it.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Wass for his trust in my compositional skills and judgment; it has truly been a privilege and tremendous pleasure to write for and work with such a fine and professional group as this faculty ensemble from Texas Tech University.”

Tim Jansa
February 2009

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