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EIU Department of Music

Composers' Forum: Fall 2020


Featuring original compositions by EIU Student Composers:

Camden M. Webb, Jacob Ramage, Jonathan Fong, Austin Slotnick, Bart RettbergJessica French

 

Members of the Fall 2020 EIU Composition Studio 

 


Camden M. Webb

EIU Music Composition · "Dance Of The Mercurial" for Baritone Saxophone and Piano ( Camden M. Webb)

View Camden's Score

Program Notes:

“Dance of the Mercurial” is a piece rooted in contrast. From the technical A and A’ sections in 10/8 compared to the lyrical 4/4 B section to the sudden switches in dynamics and tone, this piece highlights two extremes of the stylistic spectrum within its pages.

The idea for “Dance of the Mercurial” started at my dining room table at home as I was experimenting with scales. I was interested in two things: the exotic sound of the augmented second and the pull of a minor second on either side of the tonic. From these two interests, I discovered a scale called the “double harmonic major” scale. With it, I composed a short motif working around the tonic and accented the asymmetric rhythms of 10/8. This motif is the main theme of “Dance of the Mercurial.”

To contrast this rhythmic and energetic main theme, I composed a B theme, which is much slower and more lyrical. It begins on the 5th, A, jumping up to the tonic D, before returning to A and jumping up a whole step to E, and repeating up the scale until it walks back down at the end of the phrase. This melody also has a sharp fourth, creating a more “open” feel with the Lydian mode, contrasting the grounded and “closed” feel of the D double harmonic major scale of the A melody and section.


Jacob Ramage


View Jacob Ramage's Score

Performed by:

  • Jaida Brockman- Flute
  • Addie Gladu- Piano

Program Notes:

It seems that, now more than ever, divisions between people have risen to an all-time high. This can be reflected in our lawmakers and leaders who endlessly squabble with each other, throwing bitter insults that only further deepen rivalries. Public discourse such as this is, of course, not a new development though. A medieval king’s court would be filled with people of all backgrounds and upbringings; peasants, clergymen, merchants, and members of the aristocracy would act as advisors, pushing their agendas while discrediting the ideas of other parties. “The King’s Court” aims to portray such discourse and the confusion of debate through contrasting passages, highlighting the differences of opinions and the hectic clashes of words in which they often result. Smooth, fragile melodies give way to fiery and sarcastic quips with bombastic yet free-floating sections between them, accentuating the divisions of thought that could have been observed in a medieval court as well as in current public debate.

 


Jonathan Fong

 

Treacherous Journey

  1. Deception

  2. Danger

  3. Dark Dreams

  4. Destination

Approx. Dur. [14:11]

EIU Music Composition · "Treacherous Journey Mvt 1: Deception" (Jonathan Fong)

EIU Music Composition · "Treacherous Journey Mvt 2: Danger" (Jonathan Fong)

EIU Music Composition · "Treacherous Journey Mvt 3: Dark Dreams" (Jonathan Fong)

EIU Music Composition · "Treacherous Journey Mvt 4: Destination" (Jonthan Fong)

 

Program Notes:

Treacherous Journey‚Äč started as an exploration of ambient electronic music, specifically the works of Brian Eno; however, the completed piece explores more melodically and harmonically active environments. “Deception” has familiar choral and instrumental sounds, warming the listener up to electronic elements. “Danger” certainly has a more edgy sci-fi/cyberpunk feel to it. “Dark Dreams” uses a fugal chiptune melody cut up by discordant sounds, with somewhat of a musique concrete feel. “Destination” has the purest ambience-like sound because it was the first movement I worked on.

The names were chosen late into the composition process. They are less of a reflection on any personal experience or inspiration, and more intended as simple color descriptions for the listener - though I suppose it’s serendipitous that the names reflect the strange times we’re enduring right now.



Austin Slotnick

EIU Music Composition · "Fight Or Flight" for Trombone and Computer (Austin Slotnick)

 

Program Notes:

Fight or Flight is a piece for solo bass trombone with electronic accompaniment.  This piece explores the trombones ability to use the slide to smear pitches creating a glissando.  Mixed with electronic effects the trombone explores its sound and develops over the piece, building to the end.  The music, and the words spoken in it, are an expression of my relationship with alcohol and the ways it has developed. 

And then I’m gone
Waking up the next day
Knowing somethings wrong
You say just one more time
And then no more
 
But then you call again
A little voice inside my head
Sending me into a loop
A seemingly endless bend
A sweet poison
Burning not warming the soul
Filling up the space
Inside of my head
You start to move in
Taking control
 
Staring through the glass
Thinking of you
I tell myself it will pass
Wishing for it to be true
I know if I let you in
It will all start again
How many more times
Until we end
Will this be my last time
My final starting over

Bart Rettberg

 

EIU Music Composition · "Dark Wood" for Clarinet Choir (Bart Rettberg)

View Bart's Score for "Dark Wood"

Program Notes for "Dark Wood"

Written over the past summer, Dark Wood is a study in color, dynamics and rhythm, with a majority of the melodic and harmonic material derived from an octatonic scale, including a mix of major/minor seconds and perfect fourths/fifths, while also exploring a variety of canonic entrances.

 

EIU Music Composition · "A Little Summer Music" for Flute, Clarinet, and Piano (Bart Rettberg)

View Bart's Score for "A Little Summer Music"

Program Notes for "A Little Summer Music"

Also completed this last summer, A Little Summer Music is a one movement work consisting of four contrasting moods – introspective, flighty, somber, and dance-like. The piece opens with a double-canon between the three players, gradually adding more tension and movement, before moving to a scherzo which was inspired by the flashing fireflies in the dark during the summer quarantine. A slow flute/clarinet duet follows, as the piano connects the pair’s serious melodic lines, then finishes with a jaunty dance. The musical material is a free mixture of chromatic and whole-tone intervals.

 

EIU Music Composition · String Quartet Mvt 1 (Bart Rettberg)

EIU Music Composition · String Quartet Mvt. 2 (Bart Rettberg)

View Bart's Score for "String Quartet (2020) Mvt 1 and 2"

Program Notes for "String Quartet (2020)"

Using material from a previous sketch, the String Quartet came to fuller fruition during the pandemic lock-downs. The entire piece is derived from the first five notes of the opening (A-flat, G, A, B, & B-flat), which opens up a variety of interval play (half/whole-steps, minor/major thirds, perfect fourths/fifths, plus whole-tone and octatonic scale patterns). After the first statement of the five-note set (both in sixteenth & triplet formats), the motive goes through a variety of permutations, as the players mimic each other and pass material back and forth. A mix of arco and pizzicato techniques are utilized throughout, and sudden dynamic changes, help to highlight the full colors and timbre readily available to strings.

(Movement 3 is in progress)


 Jessica French

"Perfect Woman" for Voice and Piano

View Jessica's Score for "Perfect Woman"

Program Notes for "Perfect Woman" 

Perfect Woman is a piece written in spring 2020 for voice and piano. The piece is primarily in a 9/8 meter with several 12/8 meters sprinkled throughout. It follows a very French impressionistic style, as it is modeled after Beau Soir by Claude Debussy. Beau Soir is a piece composed in 1877 and set to a poem by Paul Bourget. Text painting is used in Debussy’s work and is often a technique used in art songs. “Beau Soir” in French translates to “Beautiful Evening” in English. The poem depicts a beautiful evening sunset, pink rivers and fields of wheat. It is advising the listener to appreciate the beauty of life while they are young, because life passes so quickly. It is like how a river flows into the sea, as an analogy for life flowing unto death.

Perfect Woman uses the technique of text painting. Text painting or text setting is defined as “The composition of vocal music to a given text” (King 1).  The words in the piece are taken from William Wordsworth’s poem of the same name, Perfect Woman written in 1804 (Interesting Literature 2020, 1). Wordsworth’s poem is about a beautiful woman with “eyes as stars of twilight fair, like twilights too her dusky hair...endurance, foresight, strength and skill... with something of an angelic light” (Wordsworth 1). I chose this poem to set to song because these words spoke to me. One of the first concepts I had in mind was feminine beauty. There is true strength, elegance, and pride in feminine beauty, and it should never be ashamed or diminished, but celebrated and honored, thus this poem was most proper to represent that.

 

EIU Music Composition · "On The Fragility Of Life" for Piano (Jessica French)

View Jessica's Score for "On The Fragility Of Life"

Program Notes for "On The Fragility Of Life"

On the Fragility of Life is a piano solo written in the fall of 2020. It was influenced by the recent passing of my uncle on my father’s side. We had lost him in November of 2019, due to unforeseen circumstances. The piece is inspired by the idea that nothing in this life is permanent, and in fact life is rather fragile. On the Fragility of Life is influenced by Gymnopedie No. 1 (1888) by Erik Satie and Nocturne Op 9 No 2 (1832) by Franz Chopin. Gymnopedie No. 1 is written in 3/4 time and consists of two sharps, initially implying D major, however the piece ends with a d minor triad.  Nocturne Op 9 No 2 is written in 12/8 meter and Eb major. The piece has a consistent eighth note figure in the left hand and carries a romantic and somber tone. This melodramatic style serves as a reference for my piece, where my meters shift between 3/4 and 4/4 and the style is a lament. On the Fragility of Life follows an A, B, A’ form and written as an elegy for my uncle.

 

EIU Music Composition · "Agitation" for Cello and Electronics (Jessica French)

View Jessica's Score for "Agitation"

Program Notes for "Agitation"

Agitation is a work for cello and electronic accompaniment composed in fall 2020. I composed the cello score this year after seeing the state of the world in relation to politics, Black Lives Matter, and the COVID-19 pandemic, in tandem with my graduate studies. I am glad I was able to create something representative of the feelings I have experienced, as well as what many other people have experienced in these changing times. The techniques used in this work are Sul Ponticello, specified accelerando, and a few 5/4 bars mixed in with the primary 4/4 meter. Sul Ponticello is a term for string players to bow near the bridge to achieve a glassier sound, or to create a thinner sound in the instrument. I use this technique several times in the first 11 bars where the cellist is playing 16th and 8th note riffs then landing on half notes, dotted half notes, or whole notes.

Agitation is inspired by human feelings of anxiousness, anxiety, and frustration. For the feeling I was intending to capture through this piece, I needed a more “disturbed work.” I wanted to create something more agitated and busier than my previous works. I spent some time listening to different cello works for inspiration, including the Bathroom Dance and Defeated Clown by Hildur Guðnadóttir from the 2019 movie the Joker and Sonata in B minor for solo cello, Op.8, mvt. III by Zoltán Kodály. Kodaly’s work uses an extensive number of extended techniques on the cello and is an incredibly passionate and driven piece. One of my goals with Agitation is to have this same energy and drive in the cello’s performance. I hope that the listener can hear the shifts in mood through the cello and electronics, and can feel the small creeping anxiousness, sadness, glimmers of light, and intense moments of agitation intended throughout the work.

EIU Music Composition · "Retro Ace Gaming Theme" (Jessica French)

Program Notes for "Retro Ace Gaming Theme"

In December of 2019, I was approached by fellow student Mark Codo who asked if I would write a theme song for his TV pilot, about a video gaming club, as a collaborative project for spring 2020. I jumped at the opportunity and felt honored to take on the challenge. This challenge became my piece Retro Ace Gaming Theme. My first ideas were sketched out on paper, then notation software. After a few weeks I became very accustomed to the digital audio workstation Logic Pro X. Techniques that I used in this composition project includes use of EQ, compression, delay, reverb, mixing, and mastering. I spent time listening to several different Zelda game soundtracks for inspiration, including Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Zelda: Twilight Princess, Zelda: Breath of the Wild. By modeling my piece off these game soundtracks, it helped me create a balance between my synthesized instruments in my piece including a cello, drum set, synthesized piano, vibraphone, violin, and other synthesized electronic sounds.

 

 

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Contact Information

Music Department

Doudna Fine Arts Center
600 Lincoln Ave.
Charleston, IL 61920
217-581-3010
music@eiu.edu


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