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for trumpet and piano
Commissioned by Tyler Knowlton and 30 high school trumpet students
In April of 2008, I was contacted by Tyler Knowlton with an idea to compose a new work specifically for young trumpet students. He had always noticed their curiosity about different mutes and the palette of colors and sounds they produced, but knew of no piece in the repertoire that focused on those possibilities. For me, most of my work had been done for professional players, so the chance to write a piece geared towards students was intriguing. This was made even more so by the unique concept Tyler and I came up with: that the piece would be co-commissioned by the students themselves! I think any chance for young musicians to learn about the creation of new music, and the “business aspect” involved, is a valuable lesson; and for them to see a new piece come to life would hopefully be a memorable and worthwhile experience.
Tyler’s suggested title, “Mutation”, afforded many musical possibilities to me, beyond just the obvious use of the various mutes in the solo trumpet part. I decided to write a piece that, while not being too difficult, would incorporate many aspects of music often needing attention for a young student: steady time, intonation (especially with mutes), different meters, styles, dynamics (which are affected by different mutes), and different sonorities of the piano.
The piece immediately starts with an incessant and metronomic piano part. The student can set his/her metronome to 144 (or work up to it), and leave it for the entire piece. It also focuses on a common tuning note, A, beginning with the typically out-of-tune harmon mute (and thereby encouraging the proper adjustments), in a march-like fashion.
From there, the piece almost imperceptibly works its way through various meters (the beat always remaining constant) and through various ranges of the piano: high to low, and back up. As different mutes are used (solo-tone being my favorite!), the piano part suggests different styles to be incorporated, ending just as we started, back to the familiar bugling of the trumpet, but fading away almost to nothing.
In score order, the mutes used are: harmon mute (no stem), cup, solo-tone (or harmon w/stem), straight and “whispa” (or soft mute).
Jim Stephenson, Composer August, 2008
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