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Date Permissions Signed
Date of Award
Master of Music (MMus)
Briggs, Roger, 1952-
Sommer, Lesley, 1967-
Hamilton, Bruce, 1966-
Dedicated to Ron Erlandsen.
-12°F is a programmatic piece based on my experiences as a deer hunter. It is a through composed, loose ternary A-B-A form with an introduction and coda. The introduction is based on the slow, meticulous walk into the woods in the cold darkness. The natural sounds of the breathing orchestra was incorporated to represent the heavy breathing as one walks into the woods. The piano and string quartet are the only instruments to provide pitches to the ambient breathing sounds, but are not to be presented as more ‘important’ material; simply an addition to the ambience. Eventually, a slow rolling wind is added to the texture by breathing through some of the lower brass, and woodwind instruments. The introduction serves as a scene setting device, depicting the everlasting darkness, quiet, and stillness of the early morning woods. The A section begins at rehearsal mark “A” in measure 37, and slowly constructs itself from the introduction with the Glockenspiel, accenting the augmented second found in the d harmonic minor scale. From here the vibraphone emerges with a chilling theme built around the upper half of the d harmonic minor scale. This portion of the A section depicts the hunter, just after climbing his deer stand. It is freezing cold out, however he is very warm due to the walk into the woods. He knows all too well though, that this deep warmth will fade as the chill from outside his jacket slowly creeps in. The piano enters with the first melody of the A section, representing the hunter’s primary thought, “just relax, and calm yourself”. As the rhythms move to a march and the texture grows, so do the competing thoughts in his head, muddying his clarity. “I need to check my rifle. What was the weather forecast for today, and is my gear readily available? Should I stand or sit, I’ll be here awhile”. But the questions that concern him the most are, “will I be warm enough in what I’m wearing now, and do I need to add layers while my body temperature is up”. This thought is represented first in the strings. They enter with a much longer and dramatic counter melody in the key of f minor. The A section is now bi-tonal, using d minor and f minor together. After the hunter takes time to debate these concerns, he finally calms down, relaxes and sits down. The texture thins out until only the strings play an eerie a°, and as time moves along, the complete darkness has given away to a dull grey haze. The contrabassoon enters, as if from nowhere, bringing with it a flowing ascending color melody utilizing the Tri-tone, and representing the slow rising sun. The color melody, located in f minor, is passed from instrument to instrument in its first appearance. The texture remains thin and clear as fragments of the color melody are heard dancing around the orchestra. Finally, the color melody in its entirety is shared between the piano and viola, harmonized in 5ths, and unisons in the tail end of the melody. The texture remains thin until a sudden increase in both texture and rhythmic activity, as the bassoon re-imagines, and re-spells the notes of the color melody, driving the harmony towards the key center of E. Just as the orchestra modulates to the key of E Major, the sunlight spills over the horizon, splashing the skies with color. The rhythmic activity increases, and the B section begins. The woodwind, and string section continue in the background with punctuated rhythms, and the 1st violins emerge with a short and sweet melody, locking the ear into the world of E Major. It is here that the horns, who have been absent from the texture answer the violin melody in a harmonized, lyrical melody, driven by the inertia of the strings and bassoon. The B section is much simpler than the A section rhythmically, texturally, melodically, and harmonically. This is the time of day when the hunter can observe the natural behaviors of the surrounding woods, as he watches from his elevated perch. Immediately after the horn melody ends, the texture and rhythms reduce yet again. This begins the push towards A major, as the piece does not remain in E major for a long period of time. A four note motif is introduced in the trombone, the only location in which it exists. This four note motif is used as a beautiful flowing line connecting the simple harmonic gestures in the upper woodwinds and violin of the A major section. The horn has a counter motif with the trombones, which provides some rhythmic interest, and foreshadows a highly dramatic motif that occurs in the follow A section. At the end of this melodic phrase, the viola crescendo on an A major scale that leads to a consequent of the previous phrase. Although this phrase is articulated in a very different style and tamber, it is equally as beautiful. This series of suspensions serves to ‘cleanse the pallet’ so to speak, as it is absent of all orchestra color and is only articulated by the violins and viola. The lyrical melody from the horns played in the E major section now returns as the strings die away. It is transposed into A major and is accompanied by a much simpler rhythmic pattern in the piano. The winds are now put in alternating pairs of clarinets and bass clarinets, then oboes and bassoons, which are each supported with the warmth of the marimba and the punctuation of the glock. The mixing and matching of the woodwind instruments in pairs helps to depict the calmness that takes place in the woods before a wind storm. The leaves rustle beneath the hunter as small animals rush to achieve their tasks, as the cello and viola fill the void between the woodwind duo phrases. The music now returns to a familiar texture, rhythm, and melody. The same material of quarter note on beat 4, two halves, and a dotted half returns to transition from A major to f# minor. This same rhythm, texture, and melodic structure is used to transition from E major to A major. The duration of this transition however is augmented from the prior transition. Expanding the tension and building the mass of sound until reaching the first truly dominant chord of the piece: C#7. The tempo slowly accelerates to build the tension, only to slow back down to ‘a tempo’. The dominant chord resolves to f# minor, beginning the final section of the piece before the coda. The last A section is back in a minor sonority, f# minor, and often borrows the Bb from g minor, or oscillates between the two scales. The inertia starts right away in this section and does not seize. This section represents the storm that was mentioned earlier, when it was calmer. The wind picks up which sways the tree the hunter is anchored to. The glock comes in, playing nearly the same material as the first notes of the A section, still accenting the same augmented second as before. The piano enters right away with a rhythmic pulse that cycles through the f# minor triad and borrowed Bb from g minor as the harp supports the f# minor sonority with a bisbigliando. The marimba then enters with a linear motif that represents the wind starting to blow through the trees; incorporating a variety of rhythmic groupings, it runs from its lower bass clef to mid-range treble clef, and back down. It is here that the bass clarinet enters quietly with the melody of the last A section. The melody is recycled material from the color melody in the first A section, retonicized, and fragmented, as if being cut off by the wind gestures. The wind gestures do not harmonically fit within the key of f# minor giving them more harmonic tension as they weave in and out of the section and break apart the melodic structures. After the texture grows the flutes enter on a strong and contrasting e harmonic minor scale beginning a contrapuntal counter melody to the main color melody of the section. The color melody is first played in its entire re-harmonized portion in the contra bassoon, just as it was originally stated, as the flutes are finishing their melody. The color melody is harmonized with the progression f#m, gm, EM, and AM in the string section as the double basses chug along with the piano’s rhythmic motif. The wind comes back again to cut off the melody and gives the hunter vertigo, represented by the bassoons and marimba with the 16the note small groupings. The full brass and string sections now work as a whole, playing the main melody, but re-worked again. This time the melody starts on the 3rd of f# minor, A, and is transposed into G major. This transposition is not a modular shift, simply a way to add confusion, tension, and business, as the hunter is looking down the sights of his rifle at a deer. Making his final decisions: “Is it a clean shot? A large enough deer? Do I truly want to take the shot?” The flutes, vibraphone, and piano however, remain in the key of f# minor and play the un-adjusted contrapuntal counter melody against the new main melody. All this is taking place while the bassoon continues with the 16th note vertigo motif in G, and the rest of the winds accent that motif on the quarter note beat. This serves as a place of complete sound saturation and emersion, just as the adrenaline is ferociously coursing through the hunter’s body. Then suddenly, he takes the shot! The basses, piano, and contra bassoon play the opening 4 notes of the f# minor rhythmic motif, transposed down a half step and land on the low open C string of the basses. The basses drone, piano and contra bassoon fade out, and the glock bows a high c as the hunter’s ear begin to ring from the explosion of the rifle. He watches the deer lay there. The basses continue to drone. Then he finally allows himself to breathe, and begins to calm himself. The piano player, percussion players, and some of the brass players enter with the same breathing effect as the introduction. The rest of the orchestra joins in, holding at a steady mp. The bass drone fades away, and joins back into the breathing effect. The piece ends on a tutti exhale, fading out.
Western Washington University
Academic theses; Scores; Art music
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Pangborn, David, "-12°F: for orchestra" (2016). WWU Masters Thesis Collection. 482.