Music Performance 361, Fall 2005: Introduction to Composition
Assignment 4: due Monday, October 17, 2005

Compositional challenge: write a short work for trombone quartet (approximately one page in length) which expresses the following five sets of pitches in sequence:

1. C, C#, F, B
2. C#, D#, G#
3. C, D#, F#, G#
4. D, F, F#, A#,
5. D#, A, A#, B

As with the modality assignment, note that these are not yet harmonies: it's up to you to define how to voice these pitches into usable chords. Which pitch will provide the bass? Which pitch will be the top voice of the chord? Will the harmony be widely spaced across several octaves, or it will it be compacted into a small registral space? Will any pitches be doubled? Take the opportunity to put your own aesthetic stamp on these sets of pitches.

Furthermore, you'll need to think about how you will extend these five harmonies into a complete (short) piece. How can you create material that will sustain each harmony over a significant span of time? Do you want all the pitches present at once, or should they appear in subgroupings? If your texture includes one or more melodic lines, how are they created from these pitches? You can express these harmonies through a wide variety of different materials, textures, and ideas.

You'll also want to consider the connections between these chords: what will make the smoothest transitions from harmony to harmony - or, if you prefer, what will create the sharpest contrasts? As is often the case, other musical parameters (rhythm, dynamics, and texture) can be allied with your harmonic choices to make the strongest possible effect.

Trombone quartets usually include three tenor trombones and a bass trombone; if you prefer, you may also write for four tenor trombones. (Make sure you indicate which grouping you are writing for!)

Some basic information about the trombone:

- the tenor trombone's range extends from the E below the bass-clef staff (first ledger-line) to the fourth-line D on the treble-clef staff
the bass trombone's range extends down to the C below the bass-clef staff (second ledger-line below), and up to the same D as the tenor
the tone quality of the bass instrument is darker and more somber
- a variety of tonguing effects are available
double-tonguing, triple-tonguing, and flutter-tonguing
- glissando is very idiomatic for the trombone
remember that extremely long glissandi are not available
a tritone is the widest possible interval
in many cases glissandi must be even shorter
it depends on the slide positions available for the desired starting and ending pitches.
- trombones have a wide dynamic range
soft chorale textures are an effective possibility for the quartet
so is extremely powerful and loud playing!
- as with other wind instruments, don't forget to leave time to breathe
though some trombonists have developed circular breathing techniques
(Mike Svoboda was demonstrating this technique during his concert and presentation)

As always, have fun with this!