About the Score: Blues-Bonnet Trail

Hello! I’m Cymphoni Fantastique, composer and cellist. Today I’ll be talking about one of my earliest orchestral pieces, Blues-Bonnet Trail. I’ve included a link to listen YouTube, but you can also listen on MuseScore. You’ll have to forgive the audio. I don’t have a copy of the recording of the (only) performance, so I had to use virtual instruments. Additionally, I’m kind of new to this score technology, so there may be sync issues. My sincerest apologies.

Now, about the score. I wrote it all the way back in high school for a competition to raise money for orchestra. I didn’t win because there was a popular vote element, and I knew nothing about marketing. I don’t remember if it was before or after the District Festival (an upcoming post), but it was in the spring semester. Hence the reference to bluebonnets.

The “blues” part came from the blue notes I added in occasionally. I don’t feel like I used them enough to have them in the title though. I was excited to use a new element (the blue notes) in a composition, and this seemed to me like a good chance to do so. I felt like the inclusion of “jazzy” instruments like the sax would make the piece feel more authentically bluesy. Kinda silly in retrospect, but I learned a lot from this piece.

If you look at my other pieces from around the same time, you’ll notice that it’s much bigger than what I usually wrote. At the time, I was pretty much exclusively composing string orchestra music (violin I, violin II, viola, cello, bass). The inclusion of brass and woodwinds posed a lot of new challenges for me. Transposing instruments, figuring out keys that were not too taxing, ranges, how the orchestral parts worked…it was a lot. The only reason I decided to write for so many instruments was because in the rules of the competition, one of the judging criteria was how many people were involved in the project.

I wish I had more time to write the piece. I like it, but I could have used the winds much better than I did. The string parts/sections are pretty nice, but I wish I could have given the winds more consideration. I just didn’t know enough, so I focused on making their part easy (not just for me), so it could be played.

I actually was considering adding a choral part to the piece as well, but the software I was using didn’t allow that many staves. I had to use a kind of strange setup (violin I and II on the same line) to get as many as I did.

The theme of the piece, like most of my other pieces, came from me playing with an idea on my cello. I mostly just play around with it in this piece because of the time and knowledge restraints. I also had a really cool idea for a fiddle tune, so i added that in because I liked it and I though you were supposed to give the winds a break because of their “chops” (at the time, I had no idea what chops were, but the winds had them and they needed rest, so…)

Transposing was really rough for me… I’m really glad I had the software, or this would not have been possible at all. I kept getting confused about which way the Bb instruments were supposed to transpose, and I didn’t even know that sax wasn’t a C instrument. It was pretty crazy for the first few days working on this piece.

That’s about all I can think to write about this piece. If you have any unanswered questions, leave them below and I’ll try to answer them. I’ll write another on a different one next week. I hope you liked this and thanks for reading!

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