Bard Variations (2021)

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  • Instrumentation: Oboe, clarinet, bassoon.

  • Description: This piece was written from the start with the idea of breathing new life into an old piece of music. One of the pieces from my undergraduate senior recital that I am still very proud of is Muse of Fire, a piece that told the story of William Shakespeare’s 1599 play, Henry V. This, combined with my recent interest in the world of fantasy, helped create the backdrop for a set of variations based on this older theme.

  • The set opens with a short introduction used to draw the audience into this Renaissance world. The theme is then presented; it follows the original, just reorchestrated for the reed trio. (In the original piece, the theme is generally in the woodwinds anyway, which made it a perfect translation to this ensemble.) The first variation adds chromatic accompaniment around the melody, which is slowed down. The second variation plays with picking out duos from the ensemble, which helps add a textural contrast to the first. The quick and light third variation is contrasted with the mystical fourth variation, which again returns to dissonant harmonies and a slower melody. The high registers are also explored here. The fifth variation is the slowest, giving the melody to the bassoon most of the time; the clarinet references the accompaniment in Muse of Fire’s slow section. The sixth variation is meant to be a jazzy take on the theme, with slap-tonguing in the clarinet referencing an upright bass pizzicato. Finally, the finale returns to the fantastical world of the introduction, before the theme is presented at three separate tempos simultaneously. Finally, the piece ends with an arrangement of the very end of Muse of Fire, to help link it back to the original piece.

  • This piece was recorded by Ritual Action on April 14, 2021. I humbly thank them for bringing this piece to life.

  • Andrew Nogal, oboe

  • Andy Hudson, clarinet

  • Ben Roidl-Ward, bassoon

  • Recorded by Ralph Loza at Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago