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Desert Wind - a concerto for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

February 14, 2007

Dear readers,
hope things are good. Today I’d like to share with you how I see Desert Wind to be a Concerto for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Upon hearing the term “Concerto for Orchestra”, many of us immediately associate it with Bela Bartok, and I also thought of Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”. When I started writing Desert Wind, my intention – in addition to the programmatic one mentioned in my previous blog The Effects of the Santa Anas – was to use a format similar to the ones used in above mentioned compositions. This would allow me to feature some of LACO’s superb musicians as soloists, and also to highlight each of the orchestra’s instrument groups in dedicated passages.

There are two reasons why I wanted to feature soloists in Desert Wind:

One, I am familiar with the playing of many of the orchestra’s wonderful players, so I knew I could write the soloistic parts with the actual sound of the featured musicians in mind.

Two, I strongly believe that the most profound and deep musical statements are being made by individual musicians (as opposed to sections/ensembles). This is especially evident in Jazz. You can create powerful and impressive – but also thoughtful and moody – musical passages with a big band, but – in this writer’s opinion – no matter how expertly you do it, you will never come close to the complexity and depth of a solo improvisation by, say, John Coltrane or Miles Davis. The difference is maybe a little less clear-cut in a symphony orchestra – just think about the emotional range a string section is capable of expressing – but even here the soloistic approach is still the ultimate for me.

Having said that, let me – in the order of their appearances -introduce you to the soloists of Desert Wind:
Concertmaster Margaret Batjer will be up first about 3 minutes into the piece, elaborating on the City Theme (see blog The Themes of Desert Wind). She will eventually be joined by acting principal clarinetist Joshua Ranz, engaging her in a lively musical conversation. After a playful woodwind section interlude, principal hornist Richard Todd, who is one of the premiere jazz artists on his instrument, will improvise over a slow funk groove laid down by the snare drum (with brushes) and pizzicato celli/basses. Later in the piece principal oboist Allan Vogel can be heard playing an “in-and-out (of the harmony)” jazz-like solo backed by a driving string section and percussion, while principal violist Roland Kato gets to reprise Margaret Batjer’s earlier statement of the City Theme, just before the final, energetic push of the piece towards its conclusion.

Next time I’ll tell you about the different rhythms/grooves which can be found in Desert Wind

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Since submitting my last blog I had a very helpful meeting with concertmaster Margaret Batjer in which we discussed fine points of bowings/string phrasings.

Next up: a meeting on February 21 with patrons of the Sound Investment program to report on current status of the piece.

Until next time, keep the music alive,
GW

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