for trumpet or cornet in Eb and piano
Sorrow is almost violet was commissioned in 1996 by Adrian Griffin, a student in my theory classes at the University of Louisville, in honor of his father Wendell, a trumpeter and music teacher, and also in honor of his trumpet teachers.
Despite the celebratory nature of the commission, Adrian specifically requested a piece that was expressive and sad. I believe I obliged.
I found the title only after the piece was completed. This was the first time in many years I hadn’t had the title set before I began write a piece. The title is the first line of a poem (“Polychrome-Topeka, 1985”) by my friend Robert Nosow, a cellist and musicologist as well as a poet. As soon as I read it I knew it was perfect for the mood of the piece I had just completed.
At the behest of my colleague, trumpeter Michael Tunnell, the piece was revised and slightly expanded in 2004. Among other changes, it was reworked for Eb trumpet (originally it was scored for trumpet in C) because of the high tessitura.
Technically, Sorrow is almost violet is an arch form, with some material restated literally after its first appearance, while other material is reworked. Several inside-the-piano sounds are incorporated, and the trumpet uses different mutes to add variety to the sonic landscape. After reaching several climactic points, the trumpet moves offstage to play its final calls, before fading away.
recorded by Michael Tunnell, trumpet, and Meme Tunnell, piano