(Three Pieces for Trumpet, Alto Saxophone and Piano)
The last movement of this set was composed in 2005 as a short stand-alone piece for trumpeter Kim Dunnick and saxophonist Steven Mauk, both on the faculty of Ithaca College. Kim requested a piece they could perform on their joint concert tours. After they had performed it a few times, we found ourselves at a dinner party, where they suggested that I add a movement or two to it to make a set. (I think it might have been the wine talking, but I took them seriously anyway.)
During the summer of 2006 I composed what became the first two movements. As I had already used the title of a song by a friend of mine as the inspiration for “Monorail to Atomland,” I used the titles of two other songs to serve the same function for these movements. I do not employ any musical material from the original songs, however, but instead use only the titles as springboards for my own imagination.
“The Frog in the Spring” is a variant on “Froggy Went A-Courtin’.” Like the latter, it is a nonsense song, full of impossible happenings and humorous situations.
I have fashioned the music as a scherzo, with many sudden changes of range, dynamics and tone colors. Although the title is ambiguous, the text makes it plain that the “spring” is not the season, but a pond of water (just in case you were wondering).
“Home, No More Home to Me” comes from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Songs of Travel, most famously set to music as a song cycle by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It is a bittersweet, nostalgic look at a wanderer’s departure from hearth and home. “But I go forever / And come again no more.”
The title “Monorail to Atomland” was borrowed from that of a song by my friend, singer/songwriter Barry Childs-Helton. Barry describes his song as “A Cold-War nostalgia lament for a Disneyesque future that never was.” The lyrics of the song are a wry commentary on the insane mix of wildly optimistic predictions and horrendous threats (e.g. “duck and cover” nuclear attack drills) of our childhood. This movement is an attempt to capture the somewhat alarming energy of Barry’s song and lyrics. It is subtitled “A Dystopian Toccata.” Think of it as a roller coaster ride ending with a derailment.