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Barr - Ethereal Wave

Barr - Ethereal Wave

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Selected as a FINALIST in the 2012 ITEA Harvey Phillips Award for Excellence in Composition!!

Scored for solo euphonium and percussion ensemble.  This composition is very rhythmic and driving, this selection highlights the skills of the euphonium soloist with the great energy and tonal contrast of a five part percussion ensemble.

Parts:  BC (solo part has tenor clef as well), 5 percussion parts, large size score


About the music

Ethereal Wave was commissioned by Dr. Brian Meixner and composed during December 2009 and the early part of January 2010.  It was premiered at Slippery Rock University on January 24, 2010, by Dr. Meixner and the SRU Student Percussion Quintet, with Dr. David Glover conducting, and then again at the 2010 U.S. Army Band Annual Tuba-Euphonium Conference in Washington, D.C.

In the piece, I attempted to combine several different styles of compositional thought that were roaming around in my head at the time.  Dr. Meixner had requested a piece that could serve as a “closer” for a recital, and immediately I thought of music that needed to be fast, exciting, and energetic.  As I continued to imagine the piece, I found myself attracted to the idea of writing a perpetuum mobile, which ideally suited the needs of fast and energetic, and was also something I had never had occasion to compose.

While trying to arrive at the overall theme and mood for the work, I stumbled upon “ethereal wave,” a type of alternative offshoot of rock music which uses dark, ambient, industrial soundscapes to create moods that evoke sorrow or melancholy.  Admittedly, this piece bears little (if any) resemblance to actual music of this sort, but the very idea of it inspired me to design a piece that while fast-paced, also had qualities of ambient music.  I felt this complemented the idea of the perpetuum mobile rather well.

In order to reconcile these two ideas, I put the basic musical cell of the perpetuum mobile through different transformations and permutations to create structures that demonstrated varying degrees of tonal and formal symmetry.  Through much of the harmonic haze, the melody of the euphonium and the perpetual rhythm of the percussion continue to propel the music forward.  

Finally, because I wanted to make sure the piece was also exciting, I injected a bit of film music into it, most notably the exciting pulse and rhythms of fast-paced “chase” scenes that are so typical of this genre.  These more straightforward filmic moments again seemed to complement the perpetuum mobile well and also offered contrast to the symmetrical “ambient” writing.  I also inserted two lyrical sections, again influenced by film writing, to provide further contrast and slight relief from the driving rhythm of the mobile and the hazy tonality of the overall ambient soundscape.  The result is a piece that blends ambient, minimalistic influences with driving rhythm, unabashed washes of tonality, and cinematographic musical themes.  Hopefully you will find it worthwhile listening.

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