Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Stargazer" - Recording with Trumpeter Alan Siebert

Last summer I recorded a piece of music for trumpet and piano that has now been released on CD. The trumpeter is Alan Siebert, who is the trumpet professor at University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. The piece is on Alan's new album Stargazer (produced on the Equilibrium label) and it introduces a lot of new music for trumpet.

Most of the works have never been recorded before, which I think is admirable. In the twenty-first century it is much better to do something like this rather than make a record of hackneyed repertoire that has been put on disc tons of times already. It’s a chance worth taking for the sake of demonstrating that concert art-music is alive and adaptable.

Alan and I have played together before and I jumped at the opportunity to record a relatively recent piece for trumpet and piano. It is called Cloud Peak Fantasy and was written in 1990 by award-winning composer John Drumheller. (He is on the faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder.) The music requires all sorts of extended techniques for the inside of a grand piano: I had to pluck strings like a harpist, play on the strings with my palms, and produce sound effects by scraping coins along the length of a piano string. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I got asked to do the piece in the first place. I seem to be the one who gets the call if a pianist is needed to do something a little “off the wall.” But I certainly don’t mind it; I love to do this kind of repertoire. I've actually been playing inside the piano innumerable times since about 1992!

The piece is written in what I would call an “accessible” atonal idiom. The listener will hear the typical twelve-tone row techniques that are still quite popular among academic composers in America. But the musical gestures in the music are easy to grasp and the formal ideas are well-articulated. A lot of it is written in a percussive toccata-like style that grooves with great rhythmic drive and virtuosic flash. Broader and more lyrical gestures are interspersed throughout the piece in clear-cut contrasting sections. The composer's note tells us the piece is inspired by the crags and peaks of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains. Alan and I had a great deal of fun playing and recording it, even though we never made it to Wyoming.

I am only featured once on this album because the rest of the tracks that require piano are covered by the incredibly gifted pianist Sandra Rivers. She is also a professor at CCM. It is an honor to share a recording credit with her on this disc.

Unfortunately I cannot provide a link to an audio sample right now. But maybe in the future it will show up somewhere (probably at at which point I will update this post with a link. For now the album is available online and can be ordered through this webpage at Equilibrium.