Composing “shorts”

As a student composer, my favorite compositions were short duets. Out of necessity, I wrote these duets for trumpet and bassoon. I played trumpet, and my roommate played bassoon. Performers guaranteed!

What started as an exercise, the Duet in Three Parts became a very important piece for me compositionally and artistically. It may have been the launch into finding my tonal voice.

Looking back, about 10 years later, this work still resonates with me and makes me wonder why we [composers] don’t spend more time composing “shorts”. Why are we always looking to make a splash with a large work–a grotesque amalgamation of notes and complications that represent high art at it’s best–instead of composing for a variety of lengths, instrumentations, and purposes?

With that notion, I present movement one of Duet in Three Parts:

Was that modern counterpoint? barely, depending on what you define as modern. But wasn’t that good to listen to? I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but sometimes we all need a palate cleanse in the world of new art music.

Next is movement two, the longest of the three:

Just enough dissonance. Only two lines of texture. Fun to play with a friend. Composers reading this–can you feel the urge to compose simple counterpoint yet?

Movement three–fun, canonic in parts, fast-ish:

What is the point of this blog entry? I really just needed an excuse to share my newest score videos with you.

But composer friends, if I can encourage anything–let go of the pressure to produce the next great work. Write something short. Write it for yourself and a friend. Write it for a stranger. Compose the “shorts” without restraint and I guarantee the next large, grant-funded-commissioned-work-that-will-hopefully-get-you-on-the-new-music-scene, will be easier to write.