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Transit Brass | Soundscapes

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Classical: Chamber Music Classical: Tone Poem Moods: Featuring Bass
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by Transit Brass

Fusing elements from both classical and jazz genres, Soundscapes is a sonic exploration of the possibilities of a modern brass octet. This debut album features six new original compositions written by three founding members and two commissioned composers.
Genre: Classical: Chamber Music
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Highland Fanfare
3:42 $1.29
2. Big Tired
5:16 $1.29
3. Breathe
4:04 $1.29
4. Rapid Transit
5:42 $1.29
5. To the Stars
4:57 album only
6. Soundscapes
3:01 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
When my wife and I first moved to Aberdeen, Scotland for my graduate studies, we were naturally feeling overwhelmed and lonely. Jan and Allison Hegdal, a young couple who had been married for about as long as we had took us under their wing and made us feel welcome. One particular weekend they invited us to go hiking up in the Bennachie Mountain Range overlooking the magnificent Scottish Highlands. This piece portrays the majesty and picturesque beauty of not just the Highlands or of Bennachie alone, but of the entire country of Scotland.
-Mike Merrill

The title for “Big Tired” comes from a conversation with a friend of mine towards the end of the semester in the first year of my master’s degree at the University of Illinois. I saw him in the hall looking exhausted, with bags under his eyes, and I said, “Hey, did you get any sleep last night?” He replied, “Yeah I slept fine, I don’t know man, I’m like big tired right now.” I think this long-term sense of fatigue is something we can all relate to at different points in our lives, and that phrase was the inspiration for this piece. Although this state of consciousness is certainly not desirable, I have had some trains of thought and ideas come from that surreal place of full on exhaustion that I think would not normally arise. “Big Tired” explores this place, starting with out-of-focus pitch clouds that crystallize into a 12-tone structure. A melody emerges, winding through the tone row, moving into improvised solos by the trumpet and trombone. The ensemble reaches an anxious climax, then dissolves back into the hazy landscape of the opening. The 12-tone structure is never abandoned, merely moving between varying states of organization/disorganization, or focus/unfocus.
-David Fletcher

In May 2016 my wife gave birth to our son. Within a minute of his delivery, our room was flooded with nurses who were busily working and eerily quiet. I was concerned as he had not let out a single cry and it was difficult to tell if he was breathing. He was given a breathing mask and quickly brought to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). After five long days in the NICU, his breathing had improved and he was finally ready to come home. Breathe is my attempt to capture the myriad of emotions my wife and I experienced during our son’s first week of life.
-Robert Sears

When Transit Brass approached me about a new composition, notions of smart urban planning and efficient public transportation were already on my mind; Transit’s name (and the group’s virtuosity) invited fast-paced music, but I wondered how best to suggest high-speed travel while avoiding the compositional clichés and Mickey-Mousing that have often accompanied tone poems about trains or city traffic, for example. I settled on two main “travel” motives: first, a syncopated sixteenth-note rhythm, initially reminiscent of train tracks but quickly abstracted; second, a cluster of pitches that ascends unevenly through four voices, like the revving of an engine (but without the hackneyed “downshift”). These two ideas became starting points for motivic development and inspired contrasting materials later in the piece.

In fact, Rapid Transit is constructed upon several contrasts: the juxtaposition of choirs—trumpets and trombones (cylindrical instruments) versus flugelhorn, horn, euphonium, and tuba (conical instruments); the opposition of rhythmic passages and stasis; and the alternation between non-tonal clusters and contrapuntal triads. The piece also shifts between episodes, much like travelling across a changing landscape at high speeds: sometimes suddenly, like passing from sunlight into shadow; but often with smoother, more organic transitions, such as the subtle change from piedmont to mountain.

Alongside these structural considerations, I also enjoyed the moments in which I felt I could compose the exhilarating writing that attracted me to the trumpet and the brass repertoire in the first place. I hope that Rapid Transit is thrilling to listeners and performers alike.
-Henry Ross Wixon, D.M.A

Inspiration for this work comes from two sources: my interest in outer space and the Star Wars movie series. In January 2006 I read a newspaper article that reported NASA was sending a spacecraft on a nine-year mission to Pluto. In July 2015 I was stunned to hear that the spacecraft was approaching Pluto. The fact that it had traveled nine years without any malfunctions or damages along the way was almost unbelievable.

To The Stars is a tone poem for brass octet that focuses on what I consider the main elements of every Stars Wars movie and what I imagine NASA engineers may have felt when they started such a daunting mission to Pluto. The work is divided into six brief scenes (the titles are not to be taken too seriously):

1. The New Frontier 2. The Battle Scene 3. Did it work? Did we win?
4. Galaxy Gigue 5. The Battle Returns 6. Ah! The End is in Sight
-Robert Sears

Soundscapes is an exploration of varying sound environments orchestrated for brass octet. Although this piece has since been expanded into multiple movements, this particular movement has many ambiguous tonal structures. These stacked tonal concepts actually make the movement appear tonal within itself. My hope is that this movement will evoke a mental image that tells a personal story unique to the listener.
-Austin Seybert

*soloists on Big Tired

Producers: Will Sugg, Robert Sears | Recording Engineers: Frank Horger, Graham Duncan
Mixing and Mastering: Frank Horger, Graham Duncan
Recorded at Smith Recital Hall, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign



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