Entry #3 – Trombone Concerto – Jennifer Higdon

July 28

For me it takes about a week and a half to write 3 1/2 minutes of
music (this is actually a lot of music for a week and a half…but I am
writing for 4-6 hours a day, 7 days a week). I am still struggling with
the form and feel of the piece. When I write, I like to have an
“impression” in mind of what I would like the audience to hear both
literally and emotionally. For this piece, I still haven’t found that

All of last week I struggled with the form….3 1/2 minutes of music
that is slow has been completed and that should be followed by? I came
up with several plans for sections that will speed up in tempo….maybe 3
more minutes, followed by sections of 2 minutes? Or should some of
these be 3-4 minutes? You can only make so many guesses, but when it
comes to writing, the sections often dictate how long they’re supposed
to be. You may think that it needs to be 4, but the musical material
says…nope, only 3. It’s better to obey the natural tendency of the
material than to try to force it…as I think it tends to sound like it’s
forced. This entire decision process works primarily on an instinctive
level, though…just trying to listen to it in my head and seeing
(hearing) what sounds “right”.

In writing for the trombone, I have to keep in the back of my mind
that there are limitations to this instrument, just as all instruments
have limitations….you wouldn’t write a 15-note chord for the piano,
when a pianist only has 10 fingers with which to play. So I’m thinking
somewhat of the slide positions…occasionally referring to Al Blatter’s
orchestration book, which has a chart in the back with the actual slide
positions….a trombonist’s nightmare would be to have a note in first
position, when the slide is all the way in and then have another note,
very quickly, with the slide all the way out (in 7th position). So to
make the instrument (and Pete) sound good, I’m thinking about this a
lot. I know, that as a composer, I will make adjustments for the
performer to make sure it fits him well. It’s better for me, for him,
and especially for the audience if there isn’t some battle of
impossible notes for the …kind of like ill-fitting clothes.

I’m moving now into faster music….but still sketching to try to
figure out exactly the right musical themes and how to create an
exciting energy.

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