Spun... cart before the horse?

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about my recently finished commission for the OU Percussion Orchestra, The Cry. Even before I was commissioned to write the piece, I was sitting on the poem by Federico García Lorca on which it is based, thinking it would make the perfect backdrop for a composition. It helped immensely with the organization of the musical form, as well as the harmonic language I would end up using.

Such was not the case with the percussion ensemble commission I just finished on Sunday night, titled Spun. In fact, the piece didn't even have a title until I was about 50 measures from completion (out of 322). Instead of starting with some sort of extramusical source of inspiration (such as a poem, painting, book, etc.), I began with a melodic motif (D, A, Bb, F#, C, Eb) with turned into the pitch material for the entire piece. The first 59 measures utilize only pitches from this set before exploring other chromatic key areas. As the piece progresses, the rules set forth are quickly broken and the theme expands, becomes the accompaniment, acts as the root for the chord progression, but it is always moving forward. 

The title Spun is derived from the term Fortspinnung ("spun out" or "spinning forth"), which was a term employed by Wilhelm Fischer (1915) to describe the developmental, often sequential middle part of the ritornello in Baroque music. The composer would take a short musical idea or motif and spin it out into an entire phrase or period. It may be used to expand the pace or accelerate the pace of the piece. 

Okay, I've probably bored you to tears by now, but I assure you that the piece is not boring. Take a listen for yourself...


Spun Recording

Spun was commissioned by Dan C. Armstrong and the Penn State Mallet Ensemble and will receive its premiere on November 30, 2010 at Penn State University.