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
Chobim - Six Jazz Compositions in Honor of Frederic Chopin and Antonio Carlos Jobim, Versions for Soprano Saxophone, Bassoon and Piano and for Flute, Bassoon and Piano, 2011, rev. 2012 (Ruggiero Publishing Company)
Instrumentation, Program Notes
Chobim - Six Jazz Compositions in Honor of Frederic Chopin and Antonio Carlos Jobim, Versions for Soprano Saxophone, Bassoon and Piano and for Flute, Bassoon and Piano, 2011, rev. 2012 (Ruggiero Publishing Company)
Instrumentation: S Sax (or Fl), Bsn, Pn
Duration: ca. 24 min.
Chobim - Six Jazz Compositions in Honor of Frederic Chopin and Antonio Carlos Jobim (2011, rev. 2012)
Dedication (see program notes)
Program Notes for the Soprano Saxophone, Bassoon, and Piano Version
I have enjoyed and been inspired by the music of Frederic Chopin and Antonio Carlos Jobim for more than 50 years. In the late 1950s, when I was first discovering the riches of classical music, I stumbled upon a performance of Chopin's "Heroic" Polonaise in A-flat Major by JosÃ© Iturbi that was included on an eclectic RCA Victor two-LP record album that my dad happened to bring home one day after work. In those days, it wasn't uncommon for department stores, grocery stores, and even gas stations to sell sampler albums at "giveaway prices" (for a couple of dollars, or less), presumably to get people interested in the catalogs of such leading record companies as RCA and Columbia. The RCA album containing Iturbi's "Heroic" performance, 60 Years of "Music America Loves Best," begins with Vest la giubba sung by Enrico Caruso and includes several other captivating performances, including Variations on Themes from "Carmen" played by Vladimir Horowitz, Sergei Rachmaninoff performing his Prelude in C-Sharp Minor, "Take the 'A' Train" played by the Duke Ellington band, a sizzling rendition of the Ritual Fire Dance by Artur Rubinstein, Mario Lana singing "Be My Love," Benny Goodman's classic recording of "And the Angles Sing," an NBC Symphony/Toscanini performance of the Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin, and much more! I remember playing the A-flat Polonaise over and over on my father's primitive record player, and I'm sure that Iturbi's passionate rendition of this piece, along with the other mysteriously powerful performances on the album, was an early factor that contributed to my decision to follow a career in music and to become a composer.
In the 1960s I bought and devoured an LP recording of the Chopin polonaises by Alexander Brailowsky, paying particular attention to the Polonaise in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 44. And years later, as an instructor of composition and music theory at Michigan State University, I would play and study some of Chopin's smaller works, particularly the preludes, mazurkas, and nocturnes, finding much to like and learn from.
I had heard some of Antonio Carlos Jobim's music before 1964, when the hit album Getz/Gilberto, which featured Jobim playing piano, was released in the United States, but I hadn't really paid much attention to it. Ever since Getz/Gilberto, my knowledge of and admiration for Jobim's creations has grown steadily. When I was active as a jazz performer, from time to time I would pick a Jobim piece to study, to try to better understand the unique elements of the composer's style. After studying "Insensatez" ("How Insensitive," is the English-language title), it became clear to me that some of Jobim's music is quite similar to some of Chopin's music. I sense both a musical (melodic and harmonic) and emotional connection between the music of these two masters.
With the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth in 2010, which roughly coincided with the 50th anniversary of the "bossa nova craze" in America, I decided to write this composition in honor of these two wonderful composers, Chopin and Jobim.
In much of my music I synthesize ideas, techniques, and materials from Western classical compositions, avant-garde "art music" of the 20th century, and jazz. I've titled this work "six jazz compositions" because, more than in most of my other works from the past three decades, jazz elements are dominant in the six pieces of Chobim, making for a style that may be accurately characterized, I hope, as relatively accessible. But this is not to say that I intend for these pieces to be in a popular or "easy-listening" style. Jazz, unfortunately, is not at all a popular form of music today in any part of the world, and several of the six movements of Chobim are quite challenging for listeners (not to mention the challenges these pieces pose for performers!).
Although all six movements invoke the music of both composers, three movements (I, III, and V) are based specifically on pieces by Chopin:
Mvt. I. Dark Samba
Mvt. III. Bossa Nova Sentimental [Note: This is the Portuguese word, pronounced, approximately, sen-chee-men-tau.]
Mvt. V. Bossa Ã la Brubeck
The three even-numbered movements are particularly indebted to Jobim compositions:
Mvt. II. Nocturne-Etude - One Blue Note, Quietly (more or less)
Mvt. IV. Nocturne - Changing Topics: Jazz Conversations After Hours
Mvt. VI. Waltz - Three Souls in Perfect Time
Every movement of Chobim began, essentially, as an arrangement of the Chopin or Jobim composition that the movement is based upon. Each of these six "arrangements" then was used as a primary source of material (motivic ideas, rhythms, harmonies, textures, etc.) for each of the corresponding jazz compositions (i.e., movements) of Chobim. I used essentially the same compositional process for all six movements: the initial version of each movement evolved via hundreds (in several cases, thousands!) of developing drafts. In other words, I wrote at least several hundred different versions of each movement until I arrived at the fully evolved pieces included in the final score; consequently, in most (perhaps all) cases it is difficult to identify by ear (or even by studying the score) the Chopin or Jobim composition that provided the original seed of the movement. This is intended. While I hope that during performances traces of each movement's musical DNA will bubble up to the surface from time to time, I do not want the listener to hear these movements as arrangements, parodies, or variants of the Chopin and Jobim pieces, but rather as distinct and autonomous compositions with strong genetic links to the music of both composers.
Chobim, which was composed mostly during August of 2010, January and the last three months of 2011, and March of 2012, is dedicated to my very talented Michigan State University faculty colleagues, saxophonist Joseph Lulloff, bassoonist Michael Kroth, and pianist Deborah Moriarty. This work also is dedicated to my wife of 42 years, Pat, who I hope will enjoy these jazz pieces and forgive me for not always being the most enjoyable person to live with when I'm working intensely on a compositional project!
Charles Ruggiero - Mar. 16, 2012 (rev. June 1, 2012)
Additional Program Notes for the Flute, Bassoon, and Piano Version
Early on, before I had completed the first draft of any of the movements of Chobim, I decided to make two versions of the composition, the first for soprano saxophone, bassoon, and piano, and the second for flute with the same two other instruments. In these two versions of the work, the saxophone and flute parts are very similar except for a number of passages that are written an octave higher in the flute part and a few other differences intended to make each of the parts more idiomatic and effective. The bassoon and piano parts are virtually identical in both versions.
Throughout the periods when I was composing and revising this work, I kept in mind that the saxophone-flute part would have to work equally well for both instruments, and, happily, now that the composition is completed, I feel that that neither version of the part gives the impression that it has been adapted from the other. This is to say that I think of each version of Chobim as authentic and original, not as an arrangement of the other version.
The flute version of Chobim is dedicated to my son-in-law, the very talented Brazilian flutist, Danilo Mezzadri.
C. R. - Mar. 16, 2012
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.
Blues, Time, Changes, for bassoon and string quartet, 1999
Instrumentation: Bsn, 2 Vln, Vla, Vlc, cond (optional)
Duration: ca. 15:00 min.
Time, Changes - for Bassoon and String Quartet (1999)
Blues, Time, Changes is the
second in a projected series of compositions based substantially on blues
(more precisely, blues elements as they are manifested in jazz). The first work
in this series, Three Blues for Saxophone Quartet (written in 1981),
inhabits a large niche in my compositional output where stylistic labels don't
stick well. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle about a 1985 performance
of the quartet, Robert Commanday opined:
Three Blues for Saxophone
Quartet by Charles Ruggiero was something of a misnomer; only the third piece
really exploits blues ideas. No matter, it's a pleasing set, . . .
Chances are that Blues, Time,
Changes will be received with similar bafflement in some quarters, frustrating
both blues purists and concertgoers intent upon finding apt musicological catch
phrases to stick to the composition. Some may feel that Blues, Time, Changes
is, like my saxophone quartet, stylistically adrift. The hard-core jazz fan
might think Blues, Time, Changes is too complex, too dissonant, too diverse,
too contrived, etc. to be a "true" blues or jazz composition, while
the aficionado of advanced "art music" might consider Blues, Time,
Changes to be too simple, too tonal, too conventionally shaped, too straightforward
to be a "serious" work. To put it succinctly: Blues, Time, Changes
may be too much like a simple blues for some, and not enough like an authentic
blues for others.
Aware as I am of the potential pitfalls
of writing a piece that might be called a "misnomer," I'm willing
to risk it, especially if I can offer up a "pleasing set." Jazz and
blues music, especially the latter, are pervasive in twentieth-century world
culture. Few musical genres of any time have found such wide and enthusiastic
acceptance around the globe as blues. Live and recorded blues performances,
by such masterful artists as Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker,
John Coltrane, and countless other talented singers and instrumentalists, as
well as blues pieces by such distinctive composers as W. C. Handy, Maurice
Ravel, Duke Ellington, Samuel Barber, and Thelonious Monk (not to mention the
tens of thousands of blues tunes written by waves of rural blues, R&B, soul,
pop, etc. writers over the decades), have had a constant presence in American
culture throughout the twentieth century. One consequence of this is that probably
most people raised in North America in this century (and many people from other
parts of the world) have some seemingly innate feeling for blues.
I believe that nearly every American,
trained in music or not (including those who are disdainful of blues styles),
can hear (perceive) certain aspects of blues music. It is as a common
thread in an otherwise disjointed musical culture, that blues music interests
me. In Blues, Time, Changes I rely upon the listener's familiarity with
blues to build moderately complex structures that, it is hoped, are subtly expressive
and relatively accessible (not dirty words, in my lexicon).
The title Blues, Time, Changes
is intended to be suggestive. The three words, of course, have common meanings
and uses that I hope will have relevance to someone trying to develop an understanding
of aspects of my composition. For instance, one connotation of the ordering
of these three words is that a blues form (involving varied repetitions of a
harmonic progression) might change over time during the piece. That is,
certain blues materials (including rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic elements)
might be transformed as the composition unfolds. Another connotation of the
title suggests that listening to blues music, including this piece, might be
capable of having an effect on one's perception of time in interesting ways-a
matter for speculation.
In addition to their common meanings,
blues, time, and changes each has a fairly well-defined technical
meaning (or set of meanings) for a jazz musician. Blues (or the blues)
often refers to standardized forms and harmonic progressions used by jazz musicians
as bases for improvisation. And the term has other meanings-blue note,
for example, is a phrase used by many jazz musicians to refer to special tones
and certain pitches that fall outside the standard equal temperament of Western
Time, an elusive jazz term,
refers to the unique rhythmic framework of a jazz performance, including such
interrelated variables as meter, tempo, rhythmic vocabulary, swing, etc.
In Blues, Time, Changes, which is in one continuous movement, each of
the two main sections of the piece is delineated primarily by its distinct embodiment
of time, or, in jazz parlance, by its own time feel.
To a jazz musician, changes
refers to the progression of chords upon which a jazz performance or arrangement
is based. These chords often are taken from a popular song and typically change
at the pace of one or two chords per measure. In Blues, Time, Changes
two fundamental, though often obscured, sets of changes are essential
in creating the architectonics and formal processes of the composition.
Blues, Time, Changes was
composed for bassoonist Barry Stees, my talented colleague at Michigan State
University; it was written during the summers of 1998 and 1999. (2000)
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