Trumpet concerto performed by Philippe Brunet and the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra
During the summer of 2013, I met Philippe Brunet at the Atlantic Music Festival, where I was composition faculty and he was an instrumental fellow. He led a remarkable group of brass players in a performance of my brass quintet, which greatly impressed me. I also heard him play Berio’s Sequenza X and he showed me that he could throat sing (this was of special interest to me, since I lead a double life as a throat singing vocalist). The core of my compositional praxis is person-specific music, music that is (at least initially) composed in such a way to highlight the extraordinary sonic potential of remarkable musicians. Often, my person-specific music integrates techniques that are, as of yet, unique to a specific performer. When I heard Philippe and got to know his repertoire and the range of sounds he could make, as well as his fierce artistic integrity, it seemed to me that we were meant to collaborate together.
We planned on collaborating together ever since that summer of 2013, and the logistical realization came in the form of a commission from the Henry Mancini Institute, which graciously helped support the project in the fall of 2015. The spring before the premiere, Philippe came to visit San Francisco to play a recital at the Center for New Music. During that trip, I was able to further pick his brain about techniques and hear him demo them for me. For example, the combination of low, double pedal tones with throat singing. It worked astonishingly well. It is also exactly the kind of sound that exemplifies what I mean by person-specific - I don’t yet know of any other person in the world who can deliver these sounds.
Compositionally, however, the combination of throat singing and double pedals delivers to me a sound that gives me a visceral, and emotional, feeling that no other sound communicates. The expressive end of person-specific means is this: the expansion of expressive potential mediated through new musical techniques. Around the time I was composing this piece, I was reading the facsimile of The Getty Apocalypse Manuscript, Medieval illuminations of the Book of Revelations. I was inspired by the portrayals of angels heralding the end of times with trumpet fanfares. I feel something eschatological in the zeitgeist today, and this piece ruminates on that sense of danger and consequence. The piece, if I may be so bold, is also a kind of “apocalypse” for the trumpet, one that hopefully heralds a new world of possibilities. One final tidbit. The end of the piece features several minutes of microtonal inflections on a circular-breathed note. Physio-valence, that is, the empathic revivification of a physical feat, observed in the body of the performer and recreated in the body of the listener, curates local fluctuations of tension and release, that is meant to balance the hyper-physicality of earlier sections (alas, a denouement), as well as create a space for mindfulness. That virtuosic exhalation is my hope for exorcising the tensions in the world that read in the current zeitgeist (as the Medieval world must have at times) as eschatological.
- Trumpet Concerto