whispers i & ii (trumpet and optional fixed media)
whispers i & ii is a diptych for trumpet and optional fixed media—play it with or without.
I was approached some time ago by Connor Johnson, who wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing a small piece for trumpet solo and fixed media—that could be performed with or without the playback. He wanted a piece that would clean up well for formal performances but would also be an appropriate (and reasonable!) choice when asked to “just play something.” As it happened, I was interested in trying to write such a piece, and although the process of writing the thing was delayed until late 2021, it wandered around in the back of my mind until eventually the right ideas found their ways forward.
whispers i & ii are a diptych whose tempos have been left intentionally vague. My goal with this is to give the performer flexibility—do they want to play both pieces within the span of the single playback track, creating a journey that may feel more rushed? Do they want to take their time through one movement and one movement only, luxuriating in the space that now exists as they play alongside the fixed media? Do they want to play one movement accompanied by the track and the other alone? Do they want to play the movements in the opposite order, or to bookend other pieces? Do they want to play one (or both) casually, away from a formal performance setting? Each of these questions may guide the performer, opening a variety of doorways through which a meaningful performance can be realized.
Notes to the performer:
In any interpretation of the piece, special notice should be taken of the overall low dynamics. As trumpeters, we’re often fond of playing loud, bombastic stuff; whispers should be intentionally, carefully restrained. Though not meant to be intentionally challenging, the piece may ask you to expand your comfort zone within lower dynamics. Explore that space!
Though scored for C trumpet, whispers i & ii can be played on any trumpet you’d like; the playback does not contain enough pitch content to throw you off.
When realizing the square noteheads, take care not to rest your embouchure on your mouthpiece at all; your lips should remain ever so slightly away from the instrument. To properly direct your air, you should feel somewhat like you’re emulating a flautist (though without resting your face on the horn). Some experimentation may be required to realize this technique; it is borrowed from Helmut Lachenmann’s piece “. . . zwei Gefühle . . .”, Musik mit Leonardo, which I had the privilege of playing under the baton of Nicholas Deyoe while studying at CalArts.
If performing with the fixed media, you may start or stop at any point during the track. The piece does not have to start and end as the track does; you could choose to start before cueing the track midway through, or begin playing late enough that the track fades out as you continue. Don’t be afraid to play with your presentation of this piece; the exploration is (hopefully) part of the joy!
Run time: 2’+. whispers i & ii should be all lowercase anywhere it is written.
Perusal score coming soon!
Got one I’m missing? Let me know!
- 6/11/2022, Connor Johnson, Longy Divergent Studio, The Lilypad, Cambridge, MA (world premiere)
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