This is the text of the online program which accompanied my Recital in April 2001.
Brian Uri! is a fifth-year senior double majoring in Computer Science and Music Composition with a minor in Mathematics. He has played trumpet for 13 years and began composing after attending the 1995 Governor's School for the Visual and Performing Arts. Following graduation from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Brian came to Virginia Tech, and has since studied with Allen Bachelder, Kent Holliday, and Jon Polifrone. He works summers as a computer programmer at FGM, Inc., while writing field show drill and pep band arrangements for Northern Virginia high schools. In the fall, Brian plans to attend Florida State University to work towards a Masters, and eventually a Doctorate in Music Composition.
The recital will feature his compositions, conducting, page-turning technique, and trumpet performance.
For a variety of reasons, excerpts from the sheet music will not be placed online. However, you are welcome to order a copy of the actual program which contains both the excerpts and program notes.
Thank you for attending the URI! Recital. The music you will hear this afternoon reflects less than a third of my creative output, but hopefully it will be enough to introduce you to my compositional style. On the following pages, I have attempted to provide background information and witty anecdotes about each piece, as well as the outline of a melody or two. Sadly, the lack of any karaoke apparatus in the Salon prevents an organized sing-along; however, you are welcome to regurgitate the songs in the privacy of your own home. In the meantime, I hope that you find the music and accompanying program notes enjoyable and interesting.
There may be a quiz later...
I went into the 1995 Governor's School for the Visual & Performing Arts for trumpet performance, and came out a composer. This fanfare originated as an eight-bar melody written for a general theory class. Although I was often ribbed for the similarity between the first three notes and Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, I continued to expand the melody into an arrangement for Brass Ensemble. Despite my lack of experience, (horn players do not enjoy starting on high A's and G's) the fanfare was played at the closing ceremony of the School. In 1996, it won second place in a city-wide Reflections contest.
Based on the Lydian mode of C, this fanfare has a simple A-B-A form. The ending is a variation of the melody in a cliché march style. The trumpet ends the piece on a gratuitous high C, simply because high school trumpet players enjoy doing that sort of thing. This piece is notable, not only because it started my trek into composition, but also because it's the only piece I've ever written without the aid of an aural model. While creating the melody and the brass arrangement, the only notes I ever heard were those I could play on my cornet, and what few notes I could plunk out on the piano. Every piece since this one has been aided (or hindered, depending on your point of view) by a computer to assist me with simultaneous passages and complex harmonies.
The self-imposed challenge of this piece was to write in a style not normally associated with the brass ensemble. Like instruments are treated as part of a "section" sound, and colour takes a back seat to harmony and rhythm. Originally, I had planned to write a Prelude and Fugue in the jazz idiom (complete with "fugal" horns), but that idea was dismissed early on as too gimmicky. Too much of the existing jazz repertoire for brass ensemble seems to rely on gimmicks and novelty, without taking into account what a serious ensemble can really accomplish.
I've always felt that composition and improvisation do not make good bed partners. In jazz, the composer often feels pressured into adding repeated solo sections which let the performers run wild while the audience gets bored and runs away. In addition, the improviser rightly feels that a chart which is "too" written can be a major constraint on their creativity. Not surprisingly, I side with the composers, and my jazz charts only have improvisation where it actually helps the structure of the pieces.
This piece is aptly titled because it's the most recent composition you will hear tonight. Artistically, it serves as the point of departure for a musical thread six years long. Besides, all jazz titles must be a smug cliché, a witty turn of a common phrase, or some unrepentant variation on the word "blue".
Commissioned by tonight's performers for their Sophomore Recital, Clown Facades is an eclectic mix of jazz, march, and waltz styles. The title, and the ideas tying the sections together, came after playing the first theme for a friend, who remarked that the heavy bass line and harmonies sounded like an attack by "psycho clowns". Although the "psycho" motif was never fully explored, the "clowns" angle was used to tightly integrate the various themes. A clown in the public eye is always happy on the outside, because that is what people expect of him. At a deeper level, this could be a character study of anyone in a role impressed upon them that doesn't always connect with who they really are.
Like most of my recent works, the score does not use a key signature, much to the dismay of the performers who must wade through a sea of accidentals. In the space of 16 measures, the first theme moves from F# minor, through E major, before cadencing in G minor, effectively nullifying any attempt to declare a key. As an added gimmick, the performers alternate between trombone and euphonium throughout the piece, showcasing their abilities with both instruments. The piece is divided into three major sections and opens with a heavy-handed circus march. The second section is slower and relaxed, based on a modified twelve-bar blues form. After a piano canon which includes variations from the introduction and the first theme, two euphoniums play a quiet chorale alone. The piano attempts to inject rhythmic motion and finally succeeds in drawing the others into a lively waltz. The piece closes with the introduction theme, garishly transformed into the waltz style.
This concerto was Alexander Arutunian's sixth major composition. Written in 1950 for the renowned trumpet player, Timofei Dokschitzer, this piece was strongly influenced by the melodic and rhythmic characteristics of Armenian folk music. As a composer, Arutunian expresses his nationality by incorporating the flavor of "ashughner" (folk minstrels’) improvisations. His compositional style was similar to Khachaturian in the 1940s, at the time the concerto was written, but he tended towards classical forms and clearer tonality in the 1960s.
The concerto is three movements played without pause (Andante -- Allegro energico, Meno mosso, and Tempo I). Until my introduction with the Ewazen sonata this semester, I found this piece to be the most intriguing, from the viewpoint of both a composer and a performer. The concerto was originally written for trumpet and orchestra, and the extended cadenza was written by Mr. Dokschitzer. Although there are spectacular trumpet parts, the piece never falls into the "soloist is king" mentality that often plagues other concertos -- the work would not succeed without the strong interplay between the soloist and the accompaniment.
Badinage is an abstract work that started out as a series of major seventh chords. My last trumpet and piano work was deeply emotional and almost programmatic in nature, so this was my attempt at a song on the opposite end of the spectrum. I started writing it as a possible first movement to a Sonata, but eventually realized that it worked much better as a tightly cohesive single movement work. The word "badinage" is French and describes a playful banter. In this instance, both the trumpet and piano share the spotlight with equal importance.
When I date my compositions, I start with the time the very first note is written, and end with the printing of the first draft score for proofreading. I started Badinage in October, but it took me a month and a half to write just the first and second themes. The remaining four minutes poured out in a single week after Thanksgiving that year. The piece is in standard sonata allegro form with an extended coda. In the middle section, I experimented with many unusual rhythms, attempting to see how far I could bend the time signature without breaking it. Of my piano parts, this is defintely one of the most difficult I've written. Thankfully, I'd already grown out of the "pianists have ten fingers so I should write as many simultaneous notes as possible" composer's phase before I wrote this. The difficulty is the result of many independent lines and rhythms, as well as the dialogue between the two instruments.
This was one of my first serious attempts at writing vocal music. It is based on a rather depressing poem by William Butler Yeats from his 1889 collection, Crossways, although I've since found that more than a few of his poems meet this maudlin description.
The piece has a simple A-B form that matches the verses of the poem. The piano starts alone, with a simple ostinato figure. Above it, a descending line represents the gentle fall of leaves from a tree. The final cadence is a little odd, based on open fifths which never resolve to major or minor. This depicts a narrator who cannot decide whether he's unhappy, bitter, bravely heroic, or a little of all three. Falling of the Leaves was originally intended to be the "Autumn" portion of a song cycle based on the four seasons. I had planned to use four of Yeats' poems, but abandoned that idea when I found that most of his poems involving the seasons are just as dark as this one. For example, in his poem, "The Wheel", the people wait expectantly for each coming season, but feel strangely unsatisfied as each one passes. It's finally realized that "what disturbs our blood / Is but its longing for the tomb."
This is one of the pieces which I re-arranged for the Recital. For learning purposes, I freeze my compositions as soon as they're proofread. If I later find mistakes or parts which aren't sensational, I just resolve to do better on my next work. This gives me a written record of how I've improved, since I don't hide the embarassing parts of early works. However, I do write second editions on occasion. In these editions, the meat of the pieces remains constant; only minor changes are made to facilitate performance.
AUTUMN is over the long leaves that love us,|
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.
The hour of the waning of love has beset us,
And weary and worn are our sad souls now;
Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,
With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.
Regrets was my first attempt at writing a vocal work with completely original source materials. I wrote the music in its entirety first, and then wrote the poem. Though some people find the text to be trite or pretentious, I think it manages to work despite any perceived shortcomings.
The song is in a simple A-B form, with the same melody used for the first two verses. This melodic fragment actually dates back to 1996. I have a whole folder full of such melodies and motives, and I occassionally pick through them when I find the perfect occassion. This song also reflects the continued refinement of my piano-writing abilities, as each piece gets a little more playable and idiomatic over time.
THESE are times I'll never have again,|
I know there's so much more to see.
As the hours fly,
Life seems to pass me by,
Planning out the future uninformed,
The play that nobody will read.
All agendas full,
missing my carnival,
Saving for tomorrow,
when tomorrow I do not need.
No longer will I ruminate
Or wither away, a dying rose.
Embrace the drama,
illuminate the shadows.
I bundle all my worries
In forgetful wrappings.
They're of no consequence
because I live today.
Now ennui and lassitude forget,
And should this life expire today,
I'll have no regrets.
In my expanding quest for poetry free of copyright-wrangling concerns, I stumbled across this poem by New Zealand writer, Katherine Mansfield. Intrigued by my interpretations, I set the text to music in just two weeks. The "big picture" was the easiest part; surprisingly, I spent more time adjusting individual syllables and making minute changes in rhythm and pitch. There's still one rhythm towards the end that I'm not sure about. I've tried it both ways without resolution, and finally decided to keep it as is, much to the relief of the singer whose opinion I kept soliciting.
This song was commissioned for a recital that never quite got off the ground. Structurally, it uses the ever-popular A-B-A form. I use both the trumpet and the piano to set the mood and the atmosphere before the vocalist begins. The three musicians are in a constant dialogue until the trumpet drops out for the final lines of the poem.
NOW it is Loneliness who comes at night|
Instead of Sleep, to sit beside my bed.
Like a tired child I lie and wait her tread,
I watch her softly blowing out the light.
Motionless sitting, neither left or right
She turns, and weary, weary droops her head.
She, too, is old; she, too, has fought the fight.
So, with the laurel she is garlanded.
Through the sad dark the slowly ebbing tide
Breaks on a barren shore, unsatisfied.
A strange wind flows... then silence. I am fain
To turn to Loneliness, to take her hand,
Cling to her, waiting, till the barren land
Fills with the dreadful monotone of rain.
This piece is another study in exotic rhythms and motivic development. Where my other works employ abnormal rhythms in a common meter, this one switches the meter at will to fit the rhythms used. Most of the piece is written in 10/8, with minor excursions into 5/4, 4/4, 3/4, 6/8, 8/8, 12/8, and 14/8. The effect, as observed by one listener, is that of "a peglegged pirate trying to saunter without his pegleg". The work is in standard sonata allegro form with an ending based on the introductory materials. Most of the work is based on the six notes in the initial trumpet melody. The development theme starts with those six notes in inversion, played by the horn. This piece was written for the Pinnacle Brass Quintet, which performed with varied personnel from 1994 to 2000.
Many of my titles are either made-up words that seem to fit the mood, or obscure vocabulary words that time has long forgotten. For example, in Duet of Dillamàro, you can find an anagram for "armadillo", and an "olio" is a mixture or medley of miscellaneous pieces. In this case, I made up the title by dropping the "L" from "ephemeral", not realizing that "ephemera" is already an actual word. For further mind-enrichment, feel free to crack open the dictionary when you get home.
Olio was commissioned by music major, Joe Ehrenberger, specifically for a unique blend of percussion and winds on his Senior Recital. Having just finished The Hero with its brooding nature and bloated textures, this light-hearted piece was my attempt at something completely different. The song progresses through three movements, passing melodies and motives between instruments and always pressing ahead of the downbeat. The percussion is scored, by request, to complement and support the winds without ever becoming the only focal point of the ensemble. This piece shows my first mature use of extended melodic phrases, mixed downbeats, and less-than-triadic chords.
In preparation for this performance, several minor changes have been made to the score. The bassoon part has been dropped and a saxophone part added to take its place. Textures are lighter, and an extra trombone helps to spread the burden of the brass parts. In addition, the percussion part that was originally a solo part is now evenly divided between two players. On tonight's performance, we're lucky to have three musicians who also played in the original chamber ensemble in October of 1998: Christa Ferst on oboe, Jaime Williams on 1st horn, and Jason Mirick on 2nd trumpet.
True to the title, the first movement is composed of many fragments and melodies, while staying within the bounds of sonata allegro form. The first theme, played by flutes and clarinet, introduces a three-note motive which will ultimately tie all three movements together. This theme is then repeated by the trumpets, shifted over by one beat. In these melodies and later ones, a careful ear can detect phrases influenced by Prokofiev, Schönberg (not that one), and other notable composers. The development of the first movement has been described as "having an exotic Eastern" sound, and is driven by the solo work of the oboe and soprano saxophone. After a brush with the dark side, the movement returns to its carefree and light-hearted feeling in the recapitulation.
Movement II is written around a continuous bass vamp with uncertain accents. The style is much different from the first movement, but the similarities appear with the early introduction of the three-note motive by the solo horn. The melody, played by solo flute, vibraphone, and finally trumpets is based on the development theme of the first movement. Between themes, a simple chord progression without melody appears often. This progression came to me after time spent in front of the keyboard. Although I won't win any piano-playing contests in the near future, I can play enough to outline melodies and chord structures.
In the middle of the piece, the oboe plays Theme II, something that surprised even me when I wrote it for the first time. Even though the melody is extremely simple and never repeated in this movement, it just seemed to fit perfectly in the spot that it appeared. Of the three movements, this is the one I enjoy the most.
The final movement is written in a modified rondo form, and the melodies are structured like those of the first movement. After a slow introduction, the flutes play a melody based on the inversion of the three-note motive. This melody is then shifted one beat and played by the trumpet, as in the first movement. A slower tempo allows the solo oboe to repeat the less-developed melody from the second movement, and the flutes' repetition unintentionally sounds like a love theme from a Japanese video game. This is followed by a repeat of the original material. The movement gradually increases in speed and intensity, taking the light and jaunty feel of the first movement and turning it into a boisterous free-for-all. On the final repeat of the melody by the trumpets, the flutes play the first theme from the first movement in counterpoint. The piece ends in a flurry of runs and syncopation throughout the ensemble. In the "exciting ending" department, I think this movement ties with the third movement of The Hero.
How do you write music? What's your favourite piece? These are two questions that people often ask. Writing music is just like writing a novel or short story -- you're just using a different language. Once you've established your vocabulary and mastered the skill of editing, you're well on your way. As for favourites, asking a composer to choose his favourite work is like asking a mother to pick her "best kid". The King's Entourage, ~7~, Scarabus, and The Hero, each have their share of the "unbelievable listening moment" that can send shivers down your spine. Technically and structurally, I'm rather proud of Badinage and Clown Facades, which sound more like first cousins every time I listen to them. Of all my work though, Olio, Mvt II is the only piece I wouldn't change a single note of.
Oh, and One for Rosie is definitely the "funnest".
He received Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Westminster Choir College, which is now part of Rider University. While at Westminster, Mr. Bryant toured with the choirs, and studied organ with George Markey, along with choral conducting under Joseph Flummerfelt. Special summer choral experiences included performances, with Robert Shaw conducting, of the Bach St. Matthew Passion in New York’s Riverside Church, and the Brahms Requiem and Haydn Creation with the Pittsburgh Symphony at their summer residence in Ambler, Pennsylvania. Mr. Bryant was invited, as a college senior, to perform the Sowerby Organ Symphony at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, also in New York City.
Mr. Bryant was organist and pianist for the Blacksburg Master Chorale for eight years, and has served as rehearsal accompanist and assistant conductor with Opera Roanoke since 1990. During the recent production of Lucia di Lammermoor, he was engaged to coach world-renowned soprano, Elizabeth Futrall. He also was accompanist for the company’s Rising Stars in Concert program, presented in March of this year.