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.
Fanfare for Brass and Percussion, 2002
Instrumentation: 4 Bb Tpt, 4 Hrn, 2 Trb, B Trb, Tuba, Timp, 2 Perc, cond
Duration: ca. 5:30 min.
Fanfare for Brass and Percussion (2002)
Fanfare for Brass
and Percussion was written in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the
Michigan State University Orchestras and is dedicated to my talented MSU School
of Music colleague, conductor Leon Gregorian, whose artistry, vision, and tireless
efforts during the past two decades have contributed so much to the development
of one of the truly great academic orchestras of North America. (January
Fanfare for Brass
and Percussion, somewhat longer and more "intense" than a typical
fanfare, features trumpet, trombone, and timpani solos and has some distinctive
structural properties that relate to the occasion for which it was written.
(July 24, 2002)
Fanfares, Growls, and Shouts for Six Trumpets, 1996, rev. 1997
Complete (ca. 7 min.) - Ruggiero's FANFARES, GROWLES, AND SHOUTS From - Recording Session, MSU College of Music Auditorium
The Trumpets of the MSU Wind Symphony, John Madden, conductor
(Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication is not permitted.)
Instrumentation: 6 Bb Tpt, cond
Duration: ca. 6:30 min.
Growls, and Shouts - for Six Trumpets (1996)
Several years ago my colleague Richard
Illman (Professor of Trumpet, Michigan State University) suggested that I consider
composing a work for a small ensemble of trumpets; his suggestion piqued my
interest and was one of the main factors that led me to compose Fanfares, Growls,
and Shouts for Six Trumpets. Many times, both as a listener and as a jazz drummer,
I've been particularly affected by the outstanding brass playing of skilled
jazz improvisers. And at more than one point in my life I even have attempted-if
only briefly!-to learn how to play rudimentary jazz on the trumpet. Consequently,
although this is the first composition of mine that is for trumpets only, I
began composing FANFARES, GROWLS, AND SHOUTS feeling confident that I could
use effectively many of the various sonorities that the trumpet is capable of
producing, including those created via the special techniques developed and
perfected by jazz improvisers and jazz arrangers.
Right from when Rich Illman first
approached me about composing a trumpet piece, some general ideas for this composition
began to percolate. But although I was enthusiastic about writing something
for Rich and his talented students, other compositional projects delayed my
writing of FANFARES, GROWLS, AND SHOUTS for quite some time. Then, in the fall
of 1993, John Whitwell (Director of Bands at Michigan State University) asked
me to write a fanfare which would become part of a set of new works that he
and the MSU Bands were commissioning to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of
the founding of the first official band at Michigan State. Delighted with John
Whitwell's invitation, I proposed to write a piece for six solo trumpets, and
he endorsed this plan.
Fanfares, Growls, and Shouts requires
six very accomplished instrumentalists, all of whom are familiar with jazz trumpet
styles and techniques. All six parts are approximately of the same difficulty,
but the Trumpet 1 part calls for a high-note specialist, and the Trumpet 6 part
needs a player with a very firm command of the bottom fifth of the instrument's
If two of the essences of jazz are
improvisation and swing, then FANFARES, GROWLS, AND SHOUTS cannot be considered
a jazz composition, in that the score allows for no improvisation and is notated
without the expectation of "swing" interpretation of its written rhythms.
But jazz influences on certain aspects of this composition are so strong that
it might be said the spirit of jazz permeates, even dominates, this work.
Indeed, one of the primary artistic motivations of this composition is the trumpet
virtuosi of the Duke Ellington big band, and, of course, the music written for
them by Ellington and his collaborators.
One of the most galvanizing and
thoroughly enjoyable musical experiences of my life came in the summer of 1965,
when I heard the Duke Ellington Orchestra live at Weirs Beach in New Hampshire.
The band played about three hours of music, starting with a concert set, and
followed, after an intermission, by an extended dance set. In the band that
night were many of the legendary soloists whom Ellington had cultivated throughout
his long career as a band leader, including the fire-breathing and barely containable
Cat Anderson, the always tasty and entertaining Ray Nance, and the inimitable
master of the growl and mute, Cootie Williams. It is the wonderful trumpet stylings
of these men and other Ellington trumpet stars like Bubber Miley, Rex Stewart,
Shorty Baker, and Clark Terry, as well as some of the compositional and arranging
techniques of Ellington and other jazz writers, that are the foundations of
my Fanfares, Growls, and Shouts.
I have listened to at least 100
different Ellington CDs and LPs, but I've never heard a recording of the Ellington
band that even comes close to representing the power and sonorous brilliance
of the Ellington brass section as it sounded "live." Somewhat in the
manner of Ellington's brass functioning at its peak, a good performance of FANFARES,
GROWLS, AND SHOUTS must be felt clearly and impressively, even by those
members of the audience sitting in the last row of the auditorium!
FANFARES, Growls, and Shouts is
not tonal in the sense that most of Ellington's music is (but Ellington did,
from time to time, experiment with extreme chromaticism and dissonance, as well
as other harmonic techniques associated with twentieth-century Western "classical"
music). Although many of the sonorities found in FANFARES recall big-band jazz
music, the "harmony" of this composition is based more on pitch-class
sets and interactions of sets. However, it is rhythm, especially at the macro-level
of structure, that is the fundamental organizing force of FANFARES. "Good
proportion" in works of art has been a topic of considerable interest since
at least the ancient Greeks. It is my intention to have created, in a rather
systematic way, beautiful and meaningful proportions in this composition.
Kenneth Bloomquist, former head
of the Michigan State University School of Music, Director of Bands at MSU until
his retirement in 1993, past president of the American Bandmasters Association,
nationally acclaimed clinician and conductor of wind ensembles, and trumpeter!,
has been an inspiring educator, performer, mentor, and friend to many members
of the Michigan State community for decades. It is with sincere appreciation
and admiration that I dedicate this composition to him.
I wish to express my gratitude to
my talented colleagues John Whitwell, Rich Illman, and John Madden for supporting
the composition of this work and for helping to launch it on the concert stage.
(August 5, 1996; rev. September 29, 1996 and May 31, 1997)
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