“Cobalt Fire” is dedicated to William “Bill” V. Johnson and is meant to celebrate his many years as a music educator. I wanted to explore, musically, what Bill has done and where he has done it. What he has accomplished, throughout his 43 years at Cal Poly, is to share his gift of music. He has been a musical ‘light’ to myself and countless other students. I have chosen ‘fire’ to convey this positive and creative ‘light’. The piece begins, as would a fire, with the striking of a match. It then grows and expands through a variety of high energy musical settings. It ends, as does a smoldering fire, with a quiet wisp of smoke. I selected the term cobalt, as it is a blue (tying into tonight’s concert theme, “Shades of Blue”) metallic element used in blue glass, ceramic pigments and alloys. It is an extremely hard element and thus, “Cobalt Fire” is an extremely hard piece to perform.
I also wanted to look at where Bill has been. To do this, I have selected the fight songs of the three universities that he has been associated with. The melodic material is derived from the fight songs for Cal Poly, University of Michigan and Indiana University. The challenge, for the listener, is to see how I’ve stated these motifs and then expanded them into five basic themes. Being a rather ‘tonal’ composer, my main focus is always on the presentation of a strong melodic element. I’ve chosen to set up each theme with an accompanying figure that tries to convey the multiple aspects of fire (without always having a cymbal ringing). “Cobalt Fire” begins with a small flickering flame and then explores a growing fire’s positive effects: heat, comfort, home, warm food, gathering and close community. It is this musical community, that Bill has built throughout his lifetime, that I wish to acknowledge and celebrate.
grade 4 (catalog #107)
Eric at Oceanway Studios
Recording Unchanted - Golden Abyss
FOR THE WIND ORCHESTRA OF THE 2010 ALL-STATE MUSIC FESTIVAL
AT CAL POLY, SAN LUIS OBISPO
Chaos Theory (the “Butterfly Effect”) is a field of study in math, physics and philosophy where sensitive initial conditions yield widely divergent outcomes. The equivalent musical structure would be a composition based on theme and variation. We begin with a given condition, the theme, and then journey through a series of variations, which ultimately lead us to a (hopefully) surprising and satisfying completion. This composition is based upon a well-known classical theme. To help build the listeners interest, I have chosen to not reveal it, in it’s entirety, until near the end of the piece. (Make a bet, with the person next to you, to see who can name the tune, and composer, first). The basic motif is initially presented in solo brass and goes through a rather complex and busy introduction that leads us into the first variation. Six more variations follow, some quite short, flowing directly from one into another. Transition material, much like that of the introduction, leads into an eighth variation that is marked by a growing intensity. Material, based upon variation 1, acts as a transition to the first true iteration of our main theme. Just when you think the piece is wrapping up, we transition, once more, into two final variations. The handling of the material doesn’t rely upon musical conventions that one might think of as ‘chaotic’ or ‘unorganized’. I have used traditional composition techniques that produce a work that is rather tonal, full of energy and surprise, and should offer the audience an exciting musical adventure.
grade 4 (catalog #105)
Filled with a driving positive energy, a soaring melody and exuberant joy, Grand Opening makes for a robust and engaging concert opening number. An exciting fanfare introduces the three motifs utilized throughout the piece. The main theme is presented in the clarinets and then goes through four variations. The horns lead us into a more austere 'B' section. A buildup into a recap of the 'A' material leads us into an energetic and exciting coda. (performance time 3:20)
grade 4 (catalog #101)
five chorales for concert band