Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Ugly Quintet

Once upon a time, there was a brass quintet that was so difficult that none of the brass instruments wanted to play it. Its composer was ashamed of it, and embarrassed by all of the insulting things the brass players said about it. The brass quintet lived in a distant, dark, cobwebby corner of the computer's hard disk where no one had to look at it, let alone play it. Other, luckier compositions got to come out to play, to be worked on, or performed, or even recorded... but the poor ugly brass quintet just sat all alone in the hard disk, day after day, wondering if it would ever see the light of day again.

One day, the composer got an Idea. He brought up the ugly brass quintet from the depths of the hard disk, dusted it off, and rescored it for string ensemble. Just then, a magical thing happened! The ugly brass quintet, with just a touch of transposition, magically turned into a beautiful piece for strings! All the strings adored the beautiful new piece, and the composer was very proud. He decided right then that he would add some double stops and other detail work, and see whether he could get the new piece premiered in NYC in 2009.

And they all played happily ever after. The End.

Of course, this fairy tale is based on a true story. Greg had been wondering what to do about the brass quintet for months. He'd shown it to one ensemble that rejected it completely. A couple of brass players he knew at his alma mater looked it over and kindly replied that it was extremely technically difficult, even for an expert horn player. The quintet ended up getting consigned to the compositional "frog pond", and Greg despaired of ever getting it played.

It just goes to show what a sudden inspiration can do to transform something. Just today, a wild notion occurred to him to rescore the piece. He thought about clarinets, but then tried the strings... and something just clicked. Greg couldn't be more tickled. Now that he has a beautiful, shiny new piece for strings almost ready for prime time, he's just thrilled, and as proud of the piece now as he was troubled by it earlier. The transformation really is amazing; it sounds as though it had always been a string quintet.

I guess if there's a moral to the story, it's that you should never throw an idea away. You never know when you might be able to find the exactly correct use for it. Oh, and recycling is good.

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