Compositions and Arrangements
Bassoon, Cello, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Flute, Harp, Horn, Oboe, Harpsichord, Percussion-Keyboard, Multi-Percussion, Piano Solo, Two Pianos, Piano (Chamber), Prepared Piano, Electroacoustic, Electronic Instruments, Saxophone (All), Soprano Sax, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Baritone Sax, String Bass (Double Bass), Trombone, Trumpet, Tuba, Viola, Violin, Voice
Show: All Compositions
Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Large Chamber Ensemble, Boppish Blue Tinged, 2010 (Ruggiero Publishing Company)
Instrumentation: One player per part: Fl, Ob, Bb Cl, T Sax (doubling Sop Sax), Bsn, Hrn, C Tpt, Trb, Tuba, Perc, Pn (doubling Cel), Harp, A Sax, Vln 1, Vln 2, Vla, Vlc, DB, Cond
Duration: ca. 19-20 min.
for Alto Saxophone and Large Chamber Ensemble - Boppish Blue Tinged (2009)
Dedicated to Joseph Lulloff and Raphael Jimenez
Boppish Blue Tinged
The title of this concerto, Boppish Blue Tinged, is meant to be suggestive rather than unambiguously descriptive. Tinged refers, in part, to trace influences from jazz and other twentieth-century American musical genres that may be heard throughout the concerto, but especially in the first movement. One of my goals for the chaconne-like opening movement is to create variable textures and composite rhythms that suggest some of those created by the inspired improvised interplay of the great jazz combos (like the piano-bass-drum trios lead by Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, etc., and the quartets and quintets of Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Gary Burton, and so many others.), but its not my intention for much of this composition to sound like traditional jazz or any other familiar style of music.
Although its not based on a blues form or harmonic progression, I hope the second movement, Blue, conveys the kinds of emotional meanings that often are such an important part of blues performances. If the attitude of the first movement morphs from something like confident energy to menacing force, then the blue mood of the second movement might be thought of as sorrowful or soulful or, perhaps more accurately, seeking solace and enlightenmentbut such linguistic translations of musical phenomena, I feel, always must be taken with a grain of salt.
Boppish, the last movement, like much of the music of the tragically self-destructive Charlie Parker and other troubled bebop masters, is intended to be infectiously animated and life affirming. Although little melodic or rhythmic material is shared among the different movements of Boppish Blue Tinged, and each movement is more-or-less complete in itself, the third movement is, nevertheless, intimately connected with the music and emotions of the previous two movements of the concerto. All three movements, in fact, are based on the same fundamental musical foundations and form a three-movement emotional arch.
To suggest some of the emotional meanings (a vague choice of words, to be sure) of this concerto, I have fashioned several questions for each movement.
Tinged: Tinged with what? Why does desire often lead to pain? Why do vitality and power sometimes overwhelm our better selves? Is the purpose of certain truth too often intolerance?
Blue: When and why do weeping for joy and weeping to wash away our pain meet?
Boppish: Why boppish? Why not the march or the hip-hop beat? Where (to what spiritual dimension or level of enlightenment) does the Parker train lead us? (March 3, 2010)
Dig 2: From Tunes My Grandmother Heard, for large chamber ensemble (17 players), 2009
Instrumentation: One player per part: Fl (doubling Picc), Ob, Bb Cl (doubling B Cl), A Sax (doubling Bari Sax), Bsn, Hrn, C Tpt, Trb, Tuba, Perc, Pn (doubling Cel), Harp, Vln 1, Vln 2, Vla, Vlc, DB, cond
Duration: ca. 25:00 min.
Dig 2: From Tunes My Grandmother Heard (2009)
Susan Richardson Cook Wyllie
Why, you might ask, would a serious composer writing in 2008 choose to base a new composition on American popular music from the period of 1902 to 1918? There are several reasons I've done this. First, this composition, Dig 2, is part of an ongoing project that began with my trio, Collage-1912, and continued with my saxophone quartet, Dig, in which I explore the relationships between twin interests of mine, arranging and composing. Each of these three compositions (which, with equal validity, could be thought of as elaborate and fanciful arrangements) includes borrowed material that is presented in a more-or-less straightforward manner (i.e., arranged for a particular instrumental ensemble) but also transformed, in some cases so radically that connections with the source material are very much obscured. The process of moving from arrangement to composition (and back) in these works fascinates me.
Another reason Ive used popular songs and instrumental pieces from the first two decades in Dig 2 is that this music provides a means (or so I believe) to connect and explore in my work two vast bodies of musical literature that I very much admire: music of some early 20th-century avant-garde composers (Debussy, Ives, Ravel, Stravinsky, and others) and the jazz of the first half of the same century, much of which borrowed heavily both from early 20th-century popular music and contemporaneous European art music.
Finally, I simply like much of the American popular music of the first few decades of the 20th century, and developing compositional projects that involve this literature gives me a good excuse to study it, play it, and play with it.
Each movement of Dig 2 is based almost entirely on two songs or instrumental pieces (Dig 2 could be described as an "entertainment in four double arrangements"), and each movement is dedicated to one or more individuals or groups. Any printed programs distributed for performances of Dig 2 should include the movement titles; the titles, dates, and composers names of the source compositions for each movement; and, the dedications for both the entire composition and each movement.
Movement 1: Afterthoughts and Reminiscences
Based on Somebody Sole My Gal (1918) by Leo Wood
and After Youve Gone (1918) by (Henry) Creamer & (Turner) Layton
Dedicated to Charles Ives, Creamer & Layton, and Gil Evans
Duration: ca. 4:10
Movement 2: Set to Rag
Based on Tiger Rag (1917?) attributed to Nick La Rocca
and Alexanders Ragtime Band (1911) by Irving Berlin
Dedicated to Michigan State Universitys Musique 21 Ensemble
Duration: ca. 4:40
Movement 3: Melancholia
Based on Poor Butterfly by Raymond Hubbell (1916
and My Melancholy Baby (1912) by Ernie Burnett
Dedicated to Dr. Andreas Sidiropoulos
Duration: ca. 3:50
Movement 4: Thank You, Mr. Handy
Based on The St. Louis Blues by W(illiam) C(hristopher) Handy (1914)
and The Memphis Blues by W. C. Handy (1909, 1912 & 1913)
Dedicated to Professor Raphael Jimenez
Duration: ca. 6:25
Duration of the Entire Composition: ca. 20 minutes
About Susan Richardson Cook Wyllie
Few people have had a greater influence on my development than my maternal grandmother, Susan Richardson Cook Wyllie (1893-1972). For much of my childhood, Grandma Wyllie lived with my family in Fairfield, Connecticut, near where she, my mother, and I were born and raised. For many years, while she was living with us, I thought of my grandmother as a unique combination of grandma, second mother, teacher, babysitter, playmate, and co-conspirator (when my parents werent home, we often broke the house rules together).
Grandma Wyllie was one of the sharpest persons Ive ever met; she was resourceful, energetic, quick-witted, and full of basic wisdom. Although she was forced to leave elementary school at an early age, never to return, she did eventually teach herself how to read (as an adult, reading was something she enjoyed doing), but throughout her life, Grandma Wyllie regretted her lack of formal education and was self-conscious about not being able to write much more than her name.
Both of Grandma Wyllies parents came to America from Scotland, and despite being born in Connecticut, my grandmothers speech would often slip into a distinctly Scottish brogue, especially when she would get excited about something (which was often). Her mother, Margaret Richardson, died in childbirth when my grandmother was only two years old. After that, Grandma Wyllies childhood was traumatic. Her coal-miner father, Charles Cook, apparently an alcoholic, was not able to provide for his large family, some 13 children (I dont think there ever have been any coal mines in Connecticut!), and the family decided that my grandmother would have to leave school after the third grade, to work.
By the age of 10, Grandma Wyllie found herself working in a soap factory from six AM to six PM, six days a week, earning literally pennies a day. These early years certainly took their toll on her, but Grandma Wyllie wasnt a fundamentally dour or bitter person; to the contrary, she often was a fun-loving ball-of-fire, at least she seemed so to me at times.
Grandma Wyllie had no musical training, but she loved to sing, especially when she was young, and she claimed to have had a very good voice and to have performed in church-sponsored operettas when she was a young woman. At dances and parties that she attended when she was a teenager and young adult, surely she would have heard many of the pieces that this composition, Dig 2, is based on.
I think one of the reasons I fell in love with my wife, Pat, is that she got along so well with my grandmother and even shares some of her qualities and mannerisms. In honor of my grandmother, my wife and I named two of our four children after her, Charles Cook Ruggiero and Susan Elizabeth Ruggiero.
Variations On and By, for flute, oboe, and piano, 2006
Instrumentation: Fl, Ob, Pn
Duration: ca. 12:00 min.
Variations On and By - for Flute, Oboe and Piano (2006)
The Ruggiero bass is part of a melodic-harmonic formula that was very popular among Italian musicians during the 16th and 17th centuries. The Grove Music Online dictionary lists more than 30 renaissance and early baroque composers who wrote vocal or instrumental pieces on the Ruggiero formula. In the late 1960s, upon reading about the Ruggiero bass, I decided that someday I would compose a set of variations on itnot thinking, of course, that it would be some 27 years before I would begin and complete the project!
The most characteristic form of the Ruggiero bass is an eight-measure diatonic melody in G major, but for Variations On and By, I have used a Mixolydian version of the bass. The Ruggiero-bass theme is not stated literally at any point in this composition; hence, the beginning of the work is labeled Variation 1. But anyone familiar with the Ruggiero bass will recognize fragments of it in each of the 12 variations. Those listeners who do not know the theme will (I hope) mentally construct a version of it as they hear a performance of the composition. Variations 1 and 11, both of which are hockets (i.e., pieces based on what is sometimes described as a musical hiccupping effect), serve as bookends for the composition. In the final variation, parts of several earlier variations are reprised.
Many of the techniques used in Variations On and By come from medieval and renaissance music (hocket, canon, etc.), but a few of the variations are fashioned primarily by the manipulation of pitch-class sets that have been derived from the Ruggiero bass. I hope, however, that the listener will perceive Variations On and By as a unified and stylistically consistent whole, despite its mix of ancient and modern elements. (July 30, 2006)
Copyright Notice: While copying,
printing, or quoting a small portion (i.e., up to 20%) of these program notes
is permitted, under no circumstance may any alterations or additions be made
to this written material or any part of this material without the prior written
permission of the author, Charles H. Ruggiero. No use (other than the copying,
printing, or quoting of a small portion) of these program notes (in whole or
part) is permitted.
Content copyright 2023 by Charles H Ruggiero unless otherwise noted.
Charles H Ruggiero is solely responsible for all content contained within this site