Birth of a City

Here are several written sections with improvisation segments associated with or within each section. The composed work began as a piano composition and expanded to incorporate two ensembles: a string quartet and an improvising quartet of two trombones and two percussionists.

 

Variations on a Theme

Variations on a Theme was originally written for piano. The idea was to create entirely different pieces rather than different variations on a theme. Each movement uses a segment or sense of the theme.

 

The Process of Performing

The string quartet plays the written sections and also plays some improvised segments. The trombones and percussion improvise based on instructions on how to play along with the string quartet. The goal was to produce an enjoyable, moving work that seamlessly combines improvisation and somewhat complex composition.

 

From my earliest days as a composition student, I have always been drawn to the idea of combining composition and improvisation — to be precise with musical thoughts and at the same time to be spontaneous. My composition teacher warned me years ago that there aren’t many great sight readers that are also great improvisers. I was encouraged to write out ideas and notes for the improvised passages in case the artists cannot think of anything at the time. You see, this is the problem with improvisation — there are times when the brain is stressed and has a hard time producing at such a complex level. Therefore, it is more helpful when designating a passage Improvvisare to write in some actual notes for the improviser in case he or she draws a blank.

 

I’d like to thank the entire group for its mental and musical contributions in developing the overall shape of this music.

 

For Tomáš Svoboda.

 

— David Haney, Portland OR, December 4, 2018.

 

 

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