Conniption for winds and percussion (2010) - 7.5'

Commissioned by Atlantic Coast Conference Band Directors Association
Grant for Young and Emerging Wind Band Composers 2010 Award Recipient 
Level: Advanced


Premiere: April 8, 2011
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Wind Symphony
Evan Feldman, Conductor 

Reference Recording:
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Wind Symphony
Evan Feldman, Conductor

Program Notes:

I have always loved the use of polyrhythm and implied polymeter for the sake of creating what seems to be instability and disjunction. I use these techniques as a thematic element in Conniption. The word "conniption" is defined as "a fit of hysterical emotion." I felt as though this concept of hysteria was an appropriate emotional context for the piece.

The main concepts that drive the piece are juxtaposition of opposites and often abrupt and unstable melodies and phrases. The opening of the piece begins with a unified trumpet “fanfare” that establishes the Lydian mode and metallic percussion creating a residual layer of sound, in a sense echoing the trumpets. From here, the piece constantly adds layer upon layer to increase not only the excitement, but also the tension and feeling of instability. The three-against-two and four-against-three rhythms are used throughout the percussion while the winds mostly stick with subdivisions of the duple feel. As the piece reaches its first climax at measure 41, the more unified polyrhythm brings the first change in tonal center.

The following section presents the most obvious juxtapositions: loud vs. soft, fast vs. slow, large intervallic leaps vs. clusters of notes, etc. The sustained flute and oboe notes contrast the fast motion of the percussion and clarinets, while the solo clarinet soars above all of them, seemingly out of time. The next section begins while the previous is still finishing, and the French horn melody and sustained brass chords contrast the numerous rhythmic elements in the woodwinds. Eventually, instability returns both melodically and rhythmically as the pieces shifts abruptly back and forth between atonal and swing jazz figures. From here, the woodwinds and percussion create an ostinato that persists over brass chordal development to an eventual climax. The ending is both triumphant and unified, ending similarly to how the piece began. The ends of phrases and transitions are abrupt by design, even to the final note.

Conniption is dedicated to my brothers, Ben and Matt. They're crazy. After all these years of them giving me "advice" as to what I should write (much of which I wish I had on camera), I felt it was time for me to honor at least some of their requests...

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