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Music and Musings

New Facebook Live Videos on Composing

by Jason McChristian on 02/16/18

Above you will find a new video series about various composing topics. The videos will be presented via Facebook Live and will be posted here at the blog page of my site. I may continue to write out blogs, but doing these videos has become a convenient way for me to produce content. I intend to make a new video every one to two weeks and hope you will find something meaningful in each one, whether you are interested in composing yourself or are just interested in my views about composing in general. 

Jason McChristian

on the horizon

by Jason McChristian on 11/19/16

The premiere of A Fanfare for New Horizons was a wonderful success. The work was performed at the Quinlan Center in Cupertino, CA on Sunday, November 13.  I conducted the Cupertino Symphonic Band while the soloists consisted of our fantastic horn section. The horn players (six) all played their hearts out and the audience enjoyed the piece; some of them saying it was their favorite work on the program.  

Several of my pieces have been purchased this month from JWPepper. I’m not entirely sure why the immediate surge of interest, but I did send out some “cold” messages to connections on LinkedIn informing them about my work. 

The Atlanta Concert Band in Georgia will perform Flicker and Flare, for Handbells and Concert Band, in December. The conductor tells me that the performance will streamed. More info to follow.

A Fanfare for New Horizons

by Jason McChristian on 09/03/16

I am pleased to announce that A Fanfare for New Horizons - for Four Horns and Concert Band will be premiered by the Cupertino Symphonic Band on November 13 at the Quinlan Center in Cupertino. Rehearsals are going well and I have to say, the soloists are already rocking their parts. More info to follow soon.


New inspiration

by Jason McChristian on 05/09/15

Inspiration can be fickle. Typically, I finish works successfully but occasionally a work will get left behind in the dust of another. In April, I began working on a set of pieces for Narrator and Symphonic Band based on Aesop's Fables. Even as I began the Aesop Fables, I knew my impetus to complete the work wasn't incredibly strong and I suspected that the work would be shelved for later if another idea came along. I was well in to the fourth movement when I decided to tackle another project. The new inspiration came in the form of a concerto for Trombone and Symphonic Band.

 Concertos have always been incredibly inspiring for me. I have composed concertos for Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone, Contrabassoon, Tuba, Viola, and Multi-Perc. Other works are not technically concertos though a solo instrument is the main focus, for instance, Strange Myths and Wondrous Images, Series 1, issue 4 - A Hero's Anthem, features trombone, and Series 2, Issue 7 - The Social Outcast, features a horn.

  The dialogue between a soloist and ensemble is musically appealing. The individual-versus-many trope can be easily manifested in music and has obvious extra -musical implications that can suggest a number of programs. One could suggest many hot-button issues for a concerto program such as, the terrors of an oppressive society, bullying, or the celebration of a strong-willed individual, "Rosa Parks Boulevard" by Michael Daugherty comes to mind.  The soloist can influence the music of the ensemble, or the ensemble can influence the soloist. The soloist can fight against the ensemble while the ensemble attempts to suppress the soloist. The suppression can be of a negative nature, hopefully with the soloist prevailing (or not) or the soloist and ensemble can work together to solve a common goal. One recent violin concerto "Scheherzade.2" by John Adams is essentially about a singular woman's triumph in a world of oppression.

  The term concerto allows for an easy title if a more poetic one can't be found. A concerto can have more possibilities of performance if a good player is involved to help promote a work. Performing a concerto can allow an ensemble to invite a guest of some repute or allow a member of the ensemble to shine.

  A trombone concerto has always been dream to tackle. A few trombone concertos have stuck in mind as the pinnacles of the literature: Christopher Rouse's Trombone Concerto, (particularly the second movement) and Jan Sandstrom's Motorbike Concerto, (particularly the final movement). Other concertos that have influenced my general interest in concertos are Rouse's Flute Concerto and John Corigliano's Piano Concerto.

  So, for now, Aesop's Fables is shelved away until I find the inspiration to revisit it.

Details on the Trombone Concerto will be available shortly.

Aesop - Part 1

by Jason McChristian on 04/24/15

My latest project is a work for Symphonic Band and Narrator based on several fables by Aesop. I have always been interested in works for narration and, for a number of reasons; I was immediately drawn to the idea of using Aesop's fables. First, there are numerous fables to choose from. The Perry Index reveals 725 different fables, though the authenticity of some of the fables has been questioned. Second, they are great tools for teaching morals to children. Some of the actions are rather graphic but the actions of the characters are muted through the employing of animals. Conveniently, animals are very easy to depict in music. Finally, they are old. Aesop, possibly, lived from 620-563BCE so the fables themselves are certainly in public domain, but the translations of these works may not be. Translations are protected under copyright; anything derived from a different language is subject to copyright if the translator created the work after 1923. Knowing this, I was very careful to choose the translations of Joseph Jacobs. His translations of the fables are from the end of the nineteenth century, while the vernacular is relatively up-to-date.   

After deciding on the Jacobs translation, the next step was to start choosing the right fables. My criteria for choosing the fables consisted of the following. First, I wanted to stay away fables containing words like "faggot." Though this word, in the context of the fable referred to a bundle of sticks, the word spoken aloud can easily elicit the derogatory modern meaning. I also wanted to stay away from fables that were too violent. One fable, for instance, had two characters discussing when finally, one devoured the other ending with the agonizing victim crying out the moral of the story. Though I chuckled, this music should be appropriate for all ages. Lastly, I was interested in staying away from fables that shared the same animal. Since I expected to create leitmotifs for each animal, I didn't want to represent the same animal with two different themes.

The final criteria lead me to consider whether the fables would be performed together (attacca) or performed separately. The only real question was whether I wanted to create transitions between each movement, which could result in each movement ending in possibly an unsatisfying way, or if I was going to create an ending for each movement. Finally, I chose the latter, though creating transitions is very artistically satisfying. (Then again, so is creating endings.) Creating an ending for each movement also affords the ability for a performing ensemble to chose to perform all of, or just a few of the movements, or, they can choose to mix and match the order as they wish.  So far, I have chosen seven fables, but I reserve the right to add or remove as the composing progresses.