C.71 - "Instrumental Writing"

Composed: 5th January 2015

     This brief little piece is the first of many works that were to be written during my studies at the University of Surrey for a Bachelor’s in Music. While the 1st semester did not offer any composition modules, one of the compulsory modules – 'Instruments and Orchestration A' – saw us writing an idiomatic 12-bar passage of music for (what I have only just realized as) a quartet; one string, one brass, one wind, and one percussion instrument.

     Now that I have actually read the coursework question properly for the first time, you will quickly note that I only wrote for three instruments – a trio – instead of a quartet (now I understand why my grade was poor!). The instruments I chose were flute, trombone and violin; the percussion instrument is wholly absent. The coursework noted that the piece should exploit the idioms of our chosen instruments, be written at concert pitch, and have an accompanying commentary of no more than 200 words. Without further adieu, here is the piece.

 

     The accompanying commentary (or… "bullet point notes"…) is remarkably brief, written around the 5th January 2015:

 

  • b: Brief Commentary - 189 words

    • For the flute, I have indicated tonguing using slurs throughout, as well as the use of flutter-tonguing from bars 82 – 9. There is a harmonic appearing at bar 6, and the majority of the melody is scalic – very idiomatic for a flute.

    • With the trombone, I ask him to switch to a mute, and give him a break to do so from bars 42 – 5. I use a glissando at bar 10 which is possible to by sliding from position II – VII.

    • For the violin, pizzicato is used from bar 1-4, and there is a small break allowing the performer to switch back to arco at bar 42. I have used double and quadruple stopping, examples seen respectively at bars 6 and 8, and sul ponticello was used at bar 9. There is the use of a natural harmonic at bar 11.

    • As an ensemble, none of the instruments are insignificant; the flute, violin and trombone are respectively placed in the soprano, alto and bass roles.

    • However, it may be difficult for the trombonist to switch to a mute in just over a bar.

 

 

     Certainly not my proudest work, but it is one of my earliest pieces that began to consider idiomatic instrumental writing; before this piece, I did not realize that slur markings indicated tonguing for woodwind instruments, nor did I understand the limitations of trombone glissandi. Thus, this module and composition contributed to my swift reading of Adler’s “The Study of Orchestration”!

Reminiscence written on 13th January 2018

Last updated: 20th October 2018

© 2019 Jonathan Shaw