Non Sequitur Music

Rider

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Composer: Bruce Hamilton
Instrumentation: Wind Ensemble: picc, 2 fl, 2 ob, Eh, 2 Bsn, Eb cl, 3 Bb cl, bass cl, 4 sax (2, 1, 1 [alto 1 dbl sop]), 4 hn, 5 tpt (tpt 1 dbl Eb, tpt 5 dbl flug), 2 trb, bass tb, euph, tb, timp, 4 perc
Year Composed: 2002
Duration: 14 minutes, 45 seconds
Cost:
  • Rental: $100.00
  • Purchase: $450.00
Program Notes:

In the context of this piece, the word “rider” implies a person conveyed by some vehicle or force. Rather than a programmatic depiction of a particular character’s riding adventures, the work itself is an aural journey and the rider is (ideally) the listener. At the same time, Rider is a general homage to the snowboarders of the Pacific Northwest.

Two basic musical ideas permeate the piece. One of these involves a broad concern with pulse and periodicity that informs the small and large-scale rhythmic cycles and gestures in the work. The other is the concept of alternation, which is manifested most blatantly as oscillating pitches, as well as the alternation of textures, instrumentation, and themes. The oscillating notes and chords (often stepwise) feature various articulations and rhythmic rates, one extreme being trills. The back-and-forth periodicity of these alternations is often grounded by a strong sense of regular pulse. Out of these throbbing, rhythmic textures, two main melodic themes are sounded, developed, and swallowed up, only to return transformed.

The harmony of the piece is quite diverse, characterized by shifting tonal centers, mixed modes, pedal tones, a recurring pitch-set, clusters, and the use of common tertian-based triads. Recurring motives include a pitch series and a rhythmic pattern that are used in a variety of contexts, and a “descending fourths” progression of major triads. All of these seemingly disparate elements are interwoven into the trajectory of the piece, which is propelled by the main melodic themes, large-scale dynamic curves, and sheer rhythmic force. The ever-present pulsations and the different forms of alternation serve as musical glue, forging rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic connections between the different materials.

The piece opens with two notes held by a pair of saxophones. After a bass drum fanfare the music quickly blossoms, with multiple lines based on the same four pitches chaotically growing over a bold, expansive bass line. As the music climaxes, many instruments coalesce into oscillating triplet figures in rhythmic unison, which then subsides, revealing faster motor rhythms in the keyboard percussion that accelerate and propel the music into a fast compound meter. After a few brief expository episodes, a short-lived return of the original tetrachord heralds the first main theme of the piece: a cheerful tune accompanied by major triads that descend by perfect fourths. Several subsections follow, highlighting different parts of the ensemble and developing and alternating the ideas already set in motion.

A prolonged, driving section over a pedal tone leads to the first real climax of the work, with virtually every instrument hammering together for the first time. After a fiery transition, a quiet chorale emerges, which might be interpreted as a majestic ride through shifting, icy, snow peaks.

Then, a plaintive solo oboe is heard; it calls out for something new, which it finds in the robotic, quirky, music that follows. This section presents distinct instrument families in a game-like fashion. Almost out of nowhere a new melody materializes, a second theme that reaches outwards with wide intervals; to me this theme serves as the heart of the piece. After more intensified statements of this melody, the music again abates, with only periodic punctuations and trills remaining. However, a gust of wind(s) and a timpani solo impel the piece back into the fast and furious music of the first section, leading finally to a bombastic tutti statement of the second theme. After a brief crossfading transition, a quiet coda ties many ideas and themes together over murmuring chords. The piece ends with oscillating pitches, dizzy from the ride.


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