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The Way Through the Woods

Trumpet and Electronics

Score sample

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The Way Through the Woods

The Way Through the Woods, commissioned by Alex Carter, began as a simple acoustic piece for narrator and trumpet. Specifically, it was a piece to feature my wife, Jodi — a poet and a gifted orator. The solo trumpet is a classic American sound, and early drafts of the piece drew heavily on the great American works for trumpet: Kennan, Stevens, Copland. Inspired by the woods behind my Ann Arbor apartment, which are brimming with life in the fall, I began sketching a nostalgic tune which paints Rudyard Kipling’s woods as lively and reclaimed by nature.

Everything changed in the winter.

A string of personal struggles coincided with one of Michigan’s coldest winters on record. The forest behind my house took on an alien energy: not the dormant freeze which usually accompanies winter, but something more permanent. It was as if the forest were dead, and would never be living again. I felt the cold of that winter inside and out, and in reading and rereading Kipling’s poem discovered a new perspective. I began instead drawing plans for a piece whose forest is eerily, heartbreakingly vacant, save for the memories of those — human and animal — who may have once inhabited it. Soon the piece became one for trumpet and electronics, which place the narrator in the space more readily than an acoustic stage performance ever could.

Jodi provided the electronics part’s narration and singing drones. Other sounds were collected live or from open sources. The trumpet part was written when I finally decided to discard my Americana sketches and simply record myself improvising with the electronics. The Way Through the Woods was premiered by Alex Carter in May 2014.

Score and Electronics: $35

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