Concerto for Trumpet
2020 - Solo Trumpet with Electroacoustic Instruments
In April of 2019 I developed an interest in writing an electroacoustic work that I could personally perform. While brainstorming, I became inspired by the concept of space. I began to think about how much of our daily existence is defined by separation. I eventually settled on three important problems which evolved to become the three movements of the piece. Each movement represents a type of space that I think is fundamental to the human experience. Movement One is entitled "The Mind-Body Problem." This is a philosophical quandary concerning the separation between consciousness (the mind) and the physical body. How can such a fascinating and complex phenomenon of conscious thought arise from a body that is ultimately just chemistry? It’s not immediately obvious that this is even an issue, but I have found that it becomes increasingly problematic the more I think about it. Movement Two is called "The Problem of Death," and it deals with the separation of consciousness from the world when life ends. It is a space that one day every human will experience, yet we can never understand what it's like until it happens. The final movement is entitled "The Problem of Other Minds." I interpreted this idea broadly to refer to how we relate to each other. Every other person lives a life equally as vivid and full as our own, but we are fundamentally separated in the sense that we can never truly understand another person. We can get only a limited glimpse through our interactions. From a programmatic standpoint, this work represents my contemplation on these three ideas.
My goal was to make separation a cornerstone of the compositional design. The concerto as a genre is fundamentally spatial - there is both a compositional and physical space between the soloist and the orchestra. It was therefore the perfect medium for my ideas. Concerto for Trumpet is a modification of the traditional concerto with regards to instrumentation. Instead of a soloist with an orchestra, I chose to write a concerto for the 21st century by having a soloist with an electronic “orchestra.” Every sound playing from the speakers is a modification of my own trumpet playing. I spent hours recording myself and digitally manipulating the samples to create sounds that are on a spectrum between natural and synthetic. The result is that both the soloist and the “orchestra” are actually me, or at least some version of me. This interconnectedness is furthered by the live sound reharmonization and effects, projecting the live performance back into the electronic texture. It’s an experiment in the relationship between the performer, the orchestra, and even the work itself. I’ve thought that perhaps these relationships will become increasingly important and blurry as music continues to develop - this work shows one way this might happen.
Premiere: January 31, 2020 at Cornell College, Tray Guess (trumpet)