Commission Log - Trumpet Concerto Project - Topic Background

A happy November indeed!
Happy November, everyone!

I'm in the middle of working on a pretty exciting project: a trumpet concerto (for trumpeter, Will Koehler) which will premiere with the Pittsburg State University Wind Ensemble.

Having just worked with PSU conductor Andrew Chybowski this past year on The Noise, it is exciting to have another project with them so soon! Andrew's work with composers has been outstanding throughout his career, and it is a great honor to have his artistic support.

Trumpet player, Will Koehler
Will and I talked at length about what kind of piece we wanted to write for him, and finally settled on the topic of myths from the Americas. Will and I have both always had an appreciation for mythology (his love of classics is inspiring, and I've always had a fascination for both Greek and Egyptian mythology), and we saw this as a great opportunity to expand the repertoire of both trumpet music and folklore-centric repertoire for wind ensemble. There are still a lot of really fascinating and meaningful stories to tell through music.

PC: David Romero
(Twitter: @CinemamindDavid)
We ultimately settled on three legendary creatures: the Ahuixotl the Moon Rabbit, and the Thunderbird. All three were immediately musically-evocative to me, and it was a great programmatic balance to have a water creature, a land creature, and an air creature. I also found a nice balance in that the Ahuixotl was specific to Aztecs, the Thunderbird was most-associated with North American tribes, and the Moon Rabbit had separate, unrelated origins in both areas (and in Asia as well!). With the creatures themselves having very specific origins, legends, and connotations there was plenty to be inspired by and write about.

I wrestled for a while with these decisions - at the time, the band world was in the midst of the Keiko Yamada/Larry Clark disaster and the classical music community was just about to start wrestling with Roomful of Teeth's work with Inuit tribes. Even half-way through working on this piece, I still wonder what I can do to ensure that the proper respect is paid to the traditions these works come from. 

A surprising number of cultures seemed
to have, independently, noticed a rabbit
on the moon!
I do not plan to incorporate any sounds specific to these cultures in the work - I am not a South American or Native American, and these instruments/sound colors are not in my vocabulary. I'm writing in my own voice about some legendary creatures I think everyone should know more about. I don't think I have anything meaningful to add about Greek/Roman myths to the wind ensemble canon, but I do think there is still a lot to be said about other myths, folklore, and culture stories.

While it can be a little scary, it is actually really great to be in a world where these things are starting to be considered in more detail, and - as we navigate the best way to handle these issues - we can only hope everyone approaches them in a compassionate way. Also, obviously, more can be done in the program notes (and on this blog!) to direct people to more authoritative sources. It is exciting to be learning more about these creatures, myths, and originating cultures, and I hope the audience feels inspired to do some of their own research after hearing this piece!