It's rare that a composers 1st attempt at composing within a particular genre results in a piece being performed and recorded by world class musicians in a packed venue. I was fortunate enough to have these series' of events happen to me last month. It's not that my piece was particularly awesome, actually the performers committed to playing it before they saw it, and without knowing who I am. These are just some of the perks of being a member of the Central Florida Composers Forum (CF2).
I happen to work closely with the president of CF2, Dr. Tim Stulman, a fantastic composer who's had pieces premiered by multiple ensembles and orchestras at venues across the globe, including Carnegie Hall!
CF2 provides incredible composition opportunities for Orlando composers. One such opportunity came this past November (2013) when the Heisler/Yeh Duo was invited to Orlando to perform a concert of premieres by CF2 composers. The Heisler/Yeh Duo consists of saxophonist Jeff Heisler, and pianist I-Chen Yeh, both professors at Oakland University. It was my first opportunity to compose for a CF2 event, and I was anxious to do so.
I was mildly conflicted when I sat own to compose for this event. The majority of CF2 composers stylistically fall within the "contemporary classical" area generally speaking. I consider myself a jazz performer/composer, so I experienced a sort of internal struggle over how I would approach the piece. This struggle ultimately became the inspiration for the piece. My goal for the piece became to a make it sound, well...like something composed by someone conflicted about whether they were going to write something firmly rooted in jazz, or closer to contemporary classical sensibilities. The title, "Conformation" comes from the idea of "conforming" (though I didn't really feel I was conforming!) stylistically to fit into the predominantly contemporary classical CF2 "vibe". Also the title is very similar to that of a prominent Charlie Parker composition (though it has nothing to do with "Confirmation").
An extra note is often added to the set to tie in the "jazz sound" through the use of an outlined diminished Major 7 chord, which is a friend to all jazz composers and/or chordal instrument players. The final note is often expressed in it's original octave in relationship to the other pitches, or in the next higher octave, outlining the mentioned chord in root position.
The piece arguably has an "A B A C A" form, with the A sections largely derived from the above motifs. In the four bar introduction the piano is alternating between the two shapes/sets ( with rampant octave displacement) while the saxophone plays only key notes. The chords in the piano are at times a result of the bass voice following the shape of the motifs, but often have no unifying theoretical basis. The first several bars demonstrate the intent of the A sections. You can follow along with the score and check out a live recording of the piece below.