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.
Echoes of 'Piano Red', for flute, clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), and alto saxophone, 2006
Instrumentation: Fl, Bb Cl (doubling B Cl), A Sax
Duration: ca. 14:30 min.
Echoes of Piano Red - Flute, Clarinet (doubling Bass Clarinet), and Alto Saxophone
Echoes of Piano Red is a three-movement work inspired by the music of Piano Red, whom many consider to be jazz musics preeminent composer. (Piano Red is one of the less-known nicknames of Edward Kennedy Duke Ellington.) While I have not tried to copy Ellingtons style in Echoes of Piano Red, listeners familiar with some of the music of the Maestrodrummer Louis Bellsons appellation for Ellingtoncertainly may hear echoes of Ellington in this composition. Echoes, of course, can distort and even obscure an original sound, as in the extreme transformation that occurs when someone sings loudly in an immense walled space.
In much of the first movement of Echoes of Piano Red, the three musical protagonists (the flute, bass clarinet, and alto saxophone), create webs of more-or-less repeating patterns that are intended to create a sense of agitated forward momentum. Imagine three hurried travelers weaving in and out of each others paths, making progress, but occasionally getting a bit entangled.
Anyones Dream, the second movement, is rather dreamlike, in that its tempo and mood change somewhat frequently and capriciously. The harmonic language of Anyones Dream is more dissonant than that of the other two movementsan anxious dream, perhaps?
The middle section of Play and Laugh, the final movement of Echoes, is intended to sound something like a joyous and at times mirthful group-improvisation with at first two, and then all three, players improvising over tonal changes (jazz harmonies); however, none of the parts call for any actual improvisationthey all are fully notated. Each of the three parts should have its own distinct, relaxed, and spontaneous sounding swing feel (nuance of rhythmic interpretation).
Echoes of Piano Red was composed for the Eclectic Trio: Joanna White, flute, Kennen White, clarinet, and John Nichol, saxophone. Funding for this commission was provided by Central Michigan University. (July 2006)
Spirit and Flesh, for solo clarinet, 2006
Instrumentation: Bb Cl
Spirit and Flesh - for Clarinet (2006)
Duration: ca. 7:20 min.
SPIRIT AND FLESH is a musical representation of (or, perhaps more accurately, a musical speculation on) how the spirit, the vital principle and animating force of a human being, interacts with human physicality (the flesh or body). SPIRIT AND FLESH is based on three musical styles or characters. Each of these characters has some distinct musical materials (i.e., motives, harmonic progressions, quotations, etc.), but all three also share material.
The spirit character is associated primarily with trills, tremolos, and softer dynamics. The flesh character is represented by music that might be thought of as typical clarinet art musicpatterns and gestures that one might hear in a classical (or neoclassical) sonata or concerto for clarinet. The third character, or the transformational character, is marked by volatile, jazzy, and often loud utterances that mediate between the other two characters. (December 28, 2006)
Fantasy on a Theme by Ravel, for clarinet and piano, 2004-2009
Instrumentation: Bb Cl, Pn
Duration: ca. 10:05 min.
on a Theme by Ravel - for Clarinet and Piano (2004)
admired the music of Maurice Ravel years before I began my composition lessons
at the New England Conservatory in the mid 1960s. As a teenager, I remember
spending hours listening to a Boston Symphony Orchestra recording of Ravel's
Daphnis and Chloe; certainly, that listening experience helped shape
my concept of what the power of music could be. But it wasn't until 2002, when
I gave a composition seminar in the music of Ravel at Michigan State University,
that I developed a deeper understanding of the French master's art.
not yet given the Ravel seminar at MSU, when the talented clarinetist, Suzanne
Tirk, asked me to write something for clarinet and piano. I agreed to accept
Suzanne's invitation, having, at first, no intention to incorporate anything
Ravelian into the new piece. But by the time the composition was started, I
felt almost compelled to draw upon my studies of Ravel's music in writing this
duo for clarinet and piano. I'm not sure why, but I feel that the timbres of
the clarinet are particularly well suited to articulate some of Ravel's melodic
after I had decided to base my composition for clarinet and piano on melodic
material by Ravel, I settled upon the main theme from the recapitulation of
the first movement of Ravel's string quartet. Although Ravel's theme never appears
verbatim, it is the basis for almost everything in my duo. And although I have
not tried to "quote" elements of Ravel's style in Fantasy on a
Theme by Ravel, much of this composition's harmony, texture, rhythm, etc.
is indebted to Ravel's music. Fantasy is, then, offered in homage to
the master, but offered with the hope that both the performer and listener will
find in it more than just an attempt to mimic a well-known style. (June 2004)
Collage-1912, for clarinet, violin, and piano, 2001 (Subito Music Corp., Verona, NJ 07044)
Excerpt - Ruggiero's COLLAGE, Mvts. at 280 and 360 From - COLLAGE, Crystal Records CD947
The Verdehre Trio: Walter Verdehr, violin, Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, clarinet, Silvia Roederer, piano
(Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication is not permitted.)
Instrumentation: Vln, Bb Cl, Pn
Duration: ca. 9:40 min.
Several times during
the 1990s Walter Verdehr, my Michigan State University colleague, invited me
to write a piece for the renowned Verdehr Trio, the clarinet-violin-piano trio
that he founded with his wife, Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, in 1972 (just one year,
coincidentally, before I joined the MSU faculty). I regret that it took me so
long to compose something for the Verdehrs, but the delay wasn't due to lack
of interest. I've been a great admirer of Elsa and Walter as solo performers
and of their superb trio for many years, and I'm honored that they asked me
to contribute to the distinctive repertoire that their talents and hard work
have brought to life during the past three decades, but a variety of other exigent
projects during the 1990s prevented me from working on a piece for the Verdehr
Trio until the fall of 2001.
For years now both Elsa
and Walter have been attracted to the paintings of my daughter Maria Fiorenza
Ruggiero Sidiropoulos. Not only have the Verdehrs purchased several of Maria's
paintings for their home, but they also have used a few of her images on Verdehr
Trio posters and as part of their website. Every now and then, when I'd run
into Walter in the halls of MSU's School of Music or chat with him after one
of the trio's summer performances at MSU's Wharton Center, he would say something
like, "About that piece we'd like you to write, . . . wouldn't it be wonderful
if you could tie it in with some of Maria's paintings." And at one point
Walter suggested that it would be delightful to have a number of Maria's paintings
exhibited at the site of the premiere of my composition for the Verdehr Trio.
I liked Walter's idea
that I relate my composition in some way to my daughter's work, but I did not
want to write a "pictures-at-an-exhibition" type of piece. And I especially
did not want to try to convey my impressions of Maria's depiction of some idyllic
landscape located in a region of the world I'd never set foot in. After considerable
thought I decided to try to develop a musical composition using techniques or
procedures analogous to those Maria has been using in some of her recent (2000-2001)
isn't based on any particular painting or paintings, nor is it intended to impart
my musical impressions of, or responses to, the things and places represented
in any of Maria's paintings; rather, this musical composition was created using
steps analogous to those my daughter has used to transform some of her smaller
still-life paintings into larger, more abstract landscapes.
Maria's still-life paintings, like many traditional still-lifes, are representations
of more-or-less common household objects-glasses, dishes, candlesticks,
vases, pieces of fruit, etc.-arranged in a very "artificial"
manner. That's to say, arranged not as they would be if someone were preparing
for a dinner party, but arranged as a composition of shapes, colors, shadings,
etc. Quite often in Maria's still-life paintings compositional motifs take precedence
over "reality." For example, in one painting the pattern of a tablecloth
is imprinted upon objects that sit on top of the cloth instead of being obscured
by them. Although these small still-life paintings are already somewhat abstract,
a more marked abstraction takes place in the next phase of the process, where
various elements from some of these still-life paintings are used in the development
of enlarged companion works.
Maria has produced a
series of works in which she has attempted, quite successfully I believe, to
transform original but somewhat conventional still-life paintings into bold
landscapes that can (should?) be viewed in multiple ways. For example, a large
piece might be perceived as an autonomous, rather loose, rhythmic, and intense
post-impressionistic landscape and simultaneously seen as a radical permutation
of the still-life painting with which it is paired.
How did the creation
of Collage-1912 relate to the process outlined above? I started my
piece for the Verdehr Trio by fashioning a musical still-life of sorts. I snipped
many passages from a dozen compositions (all of which were either composed or
published in 1911 or 1912-hence the title) and rather "artificially"
arranged them into a musical "still-life." This part of the process
took about two months-much more time than I had anticipated! In the next
step of the compositional process, I modified the musical still-life by rearranging,
supplementing, subtracting from, distorting, overlapping, fusing, etc. the snippets
to create the final composition.
Every measure of Collage-1912
is based on one or more snippets (including a few fairly substantial excerpts)
taken from one composition by each of the following twelve composers: Béla
Bartók, Irving Berlin, Claude Debussy, W.C. Handy, Charles Ives, Gustav
Mahler, Maurice Ravel, Arnold Schoenberg, James Scott, Richard Strauss, Igor
Stravinsky, and Joaquín Turina. A diverse group of snippets, to be sure,
but perhaps not as diverse as one might guess from reading any standard
college textbook on the history of Western music! The use of existing music
to create a new work is, of course, nothing new. Not only were numerous European
medieval, renaissance, and baroque pieces constructed with borrowed materials,
but many twentieth-century composers, including some of the twelve composers
whose music is used in Collage-1912 (particularly Ives and Stravinsky),
have quoted and parodied music from various sources extensively in certain compositions.
which is approximately eleven minutes in duration, consists of two parts that
are performed with no pause between them. This work is dedicated to the Verdehr
Trio, to my daughter Maria, and to all twelve of the composers whose raw materials
I mined for the "still-life" and consequent collage (or "abstract
musical landscape") by which, I must admit, I've attempted to depict a
significant chunk of the Western music world circa 1912. (November 29, 2001)
Studies for Clarinet and Vibe, 1979-1980
Instrumentation: Cl Bb, Vibe
Duration: Mvt. 1-ca. 3:30; Mvt. 2 ("Jeanjean") ca. 5:50 min.
- from Studies for Clarinet and Vibe (1979-80)
In "Jeanjean,". . . I
have tried to write a very flexible and expressive, but sometimes vague and
understated, clarinet melody over a static and rigidly steady accompaniment
in the vibe. The quality of rhythmic "rightness" (for lack of a better
word) always found in good jazz, is the main inspiration for this movement.
The melodic-harmonic style of this piece, however, stems not at all from jazz
but from other twentieth-century sources-including the clarinet etudes
of the French composer, Paul Jeanjean." (1980)
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