Dialogue of Self and Soul, Wind Ensemble


for solo bassoon and optional voice, with wind ensemble (or orchestral winds)

duration: 20'


LISTEN – 2nd mvmt: Norbert Nielubowski, U of MN winds – Craig Kirchhoff

$60 – score
$300 – score and parts
$300 – score and parts (pdf)

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Dialogue of Self and Soul (2013)

for solo bassoon and wind ensemble (or orchestral winds)

duration: 20’

** Special thanks to the following consortium members who made this piece possible ** Craig Kirchhoff, University of Minnesota: lead consortium member, organizer

— and —

Florida State University; Richard Clary, director
Penn State University; Dennis Glocke, director
University of Michigan; Michael Haithcock, director
University of Texas; Jerry Junkin, director
Ohio State University; Russ Mikkelson, director
University of Massachusetts / Amherst; James Miller, director
University of Illinois; Linda Moorhouse, director
Eastern Michigan University; Mary Schneider, director
University of Wisconsin / Madison; Scott Teeple, director

Notes from the Composer:

“A Dialogue of Self and Soul” was never intended to be my concept for a bassoon concerto, composed for a consortium of wind ensembles (see above) led by Craig Kirchhoff at the University of Minnesota. But it just so happened that as the project came to be, I was directed by happenstance to the Yeats poem, and was very taken by its meaning (or my interpretation of its meaning).

As a composer, we are often pulled – almost on a daily basis – to consider what we write: who is the piece really for? Is it for the soloist, and his/her expectations? Or is it for the person/people commissioning the work, and what might work best for their needs? Or is it for the audience? Ideally, and the expected answer is, of course, that we should compose for ourselves first, and that everything else will take care of itself. Easier said than done.

That’s a risky proposition. If the piece then falls into dislike, or suffers bad critical review, then those responses are direct criticisms of our self as a person. The opposite is true, no doubt, but nonetheless, this is the line we must constantly walk as composers: our “dialogue” that runs constantly through our heads (or at least mine).

And so the two movements of this concerto are very contrasting. (as most concertos should be anyway). One plays up to some expectations, while the other ignores. It’s almost as if I worked through the issue described above throughout the concerto itself.

One constant remains however: a solo bassoon part intended to be accessible to almost all levels of player; not too difficult for the young player, but also musically rewarding and stimulating for the seasoned professional.

The ending is different from most other music I’ve composed, and the repetition should be heralded, rather than labored. It should end with rapture; prolonged silence by the audience at the end would be most welcome.

Jim Stephenson Aug. 1, 2013

Reflections - University of Michigan 

1st. Mvt.

2nd. Mvt.

“The two-movement bassoon concerto of James Stephenson starts as a moody, swinging barcarolle, the bassoon melody recalling the allegretto III of Brahms’s Symphony 3. Then a stiff tango asserts itself for a while, returning to the barcarolle motion, back and forth. Just about every first chair gets a little duet with the soloist, including the sole bassoonist in the band. II is a gently hopping, mobile jazzy excursion that just might get your fingers snapping to the beat and includes a very audible syncopated double-bass accompaniment— a nice touch for an instrument that is always seen but rarely heard in concert bands. The band goes silent for the soloist’s obligatory solo, in this case a tentative, recitative-like cadenza that goes back to the jazz music, then stops abruptly, replaced by a soaring setting of Yeats for tenor and bassoon duet. It’s possibly the strangest and most surprising finale to a concerto I’ve heard, yet powerfully poignant and right. The orchestra has the last say, repeating the tenor’s last two notes over and over, the harmonies growing louder, thicker, more dissonant with each repeat, finally silenced by one loud stroke of the gong and a gravelly tone cluster at the very bottom of the piano. The effect is emotionally shattering and draining.”

The wonderful disk also features music of Bolcom, Daugherty, Etezady, and Kuster.

American Record Guide

Additional information

Additional information

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Score | Score & Parts

Score, Score & Parts, Score & Parts (PDF)