Morceau pour Sill is a concerto for solo bassoon and septet: clarinet, horn, trumpet, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. It takes its name from its first soloist, Brendon Sill—fantastic musician and friend. Through countless meetings scattered across months I sought Brendon’s guidance for how to best write for the bassoon. We tested out contrasting musical ideas, experimented with playing techniques, and determined together where improvements were necessary. A few times I wrote something nearly impossible, but Brendon could always play it! I am forever grateful for his willingness to try new things and fearlessness of challenge.
The opening movement, Zigzags in Watercolor Harmonies, is based on a lyrical melody that first appears in the bassoon. It is long and winding with large leaps and inward spirals that create a sense of yearning. Alongside the bassoon melody is an ethereal sustain by the septet, an ever-changing chord of blurred harmonies. From the septet, instruments emerge with their own variations on the melody, engaging with the bassoon as secondary soloists. Everything builds towards an expansive climax, but then collapses into agitation. Like a rogue snake charmer, the bassoon twists and tangles the melody, distorting it into unpredictable, theatrical gestures. The septet joins with biting interjections that grow into fiery counterpoint. At its peak, the music transforms into the earlier anticipated climax, complete with soaring melodic lines and rich harmonies. As things settle and relax, the melody is last played in its entirety by a solo horn, the rest of the ensemble gradually disappearing into air and silence.
The shortest of the three movements, ROAR! is an extensive cadenza for the bassoon. The music is rough and visceral, the bassoon snarling in its lowest register and performing wild acrobatics. With ominous drones and dissonant outbursts, the septet responds to the bassoon, marking an ensemble dialogue of conflict: bassoon versus septet. The heated dynamic between the two sides takes its inspiration from a mafia-type board game of secret identities. Eventually, the conflict turns to an aggressive sprint that leads directly to the finale of the work.
Fireworks, Fanfares, and Shenanigans could be described as a certified smorgasbord, incorporating jazz, Mario Kart, Stravinsky, and more! It begins bright and explosive with virtuosic solos for the clarinet, trumpet, and cello. Not to be outdone, the bassoon enters and begins a conversational duo with the double bass. In this movement, all the instruments become equal protagonists, playing together in a variety of duets, trios, and quartets. In these groupings, the bassoon functions like the host of a party, checking in and conversing with each guest. At this musical gathering there are rambunctious dances, groovy musings, celebratory flourishes, and cameo appearances of earlier melodies and motifs. Jam-packed with nearly everything but the kitchen sink, Fireworks, Fanfares, and Shenanigans provides a rousing, kaleidoscopic close to Morceau pour Sill.