Tinge & Deviate

Tinge & Deviate

for Viola and Alto Trumpet in F (or Horn in F)

(2009) (c.8′)

Those who know me may know about my obsession with strange brass instruments.  As a result of this obsession, I own an Alto Trumpet.  Pitched in F and transposing down a fifth like the Horn, this unruly instrument was invented by Rimsky-Korsakov to play the lowest part in his trumpet sections, though even he only occasionally used it, and then only in his operas and the suites derived from them, and even then never utilizing the lowest notes such that the part could readily be played by the standard Bb instrument.  Despite this less than reassuring usage by the instrument’s own inventor, there are a few pieces by other composers which feature it, the most important being: Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1, Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3, Stravinsky’s Scherzo Fantastique, and Glazunov’s Symphony No. 8.  I have wanted to write a small chamber piece for this instrument for some time now; hence, Tinge & Deviate.

I decided to pair the alto trumpet with the viola for this piece, both for their  obvious differences, but more for one particular flaw they have in common.  Both instruments are too low in register for their size, and thus are slightly awkward to play and have a veiled sound; both are explored in this piece.  Much of what you will hear may not sound difficult, but is actually very awkward and finicky in execution.  You will also hear each instrument take materials from the other, and alter it such that the premise is similar, but the means to produce the sound are radically different.

The piece is in five sections with a short coda, the third middle section serving as a moment of repose around which the materials in the outer sections are reflected across.  There is a progression from loud in the first two sections, to very quiet in the last two, with a mezzo (medium dynamic) coda which is both worlds away in sound from the rest of the piece while being simultaneously the culmination of the progression of pitch materials.  There is also a move from coarse, harsh sounds and harmonies, to sweeter, almost maudlin progressions, especially in the coda.

Always metronomic, Quarter = 60 — Still metronomic, Quarter = 40 — Quarter = n/a — Interminably Slow, Quarter = sub 20 — Quarter = n/a — Returning metronomic, Quarter = 40 — Dotted Quarter = 40 — Quarter = 60

Zoe Kemmerling, Viola; Jason Huffman, Alto Trumpet