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MP3 Carson Cooman - Small Bear, Large Telescope: Music of Carson Cooman

Contemporary classical music

11 MP3 Songs
CLASSICAL: Contemporary, CLASSICAL: Orchestral

"Pittsburgh Concerto" (2005; op. 652) for orchestra was written for the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic and is dedicated to Amy Stabenow, concert manager at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Music. The piece was conceived as a tribute to the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. The work contains only two specific “programmatically inspired” images related to Pittsburgh. They form the outer two sections of the work. The inner four sections are inspired more abstractly by various aspects of the city, its landscapes, and its people; they feature a series of solos and duets for many members of the orchestra – in the manner of a “concerto for orchestra.” The opening of the work is inspired by Pittsburgh’s history as America’s steel capital. Colors and sounds of the clangorous industrial age of America’s past are evoked. The basic musical material (a six-note cell) for the entire work is presented in this aggressive introduction. Throughout the rest of the work, this basic material is developed in ways that range from lushly romantic to aggressively athletic. The following section is marked “slow, lush” and features a duet first between trumpet and tuba, over warm harmonies in the orchestra. A brief duet for vibraphone and marimba leads to an extended viola solo. The next section is fast and energetic. It begins with an athletic duet for English horn and bass trombone, followed by a ringing duet of tubular bells and crotales. The final solo is for violin, as the orchestral texture disintegrates around it. The next section, marked “slow, mystical”, begins with a duet between piano and bass clarinet. A passionate horn duo follows before a passage for solo bass leads directly into the next section. This section is fragmentary and halting. An unpitched duo of bass drum and flexatone begins, leading to an aggressive and abortive duet between solo flute and bassoon. Finally, an extended cello solo closes the section. The final part of the work is inspired by my first visit to Pittsburgh. When driving in from Pittsburgh airport (which is far outside the city), the city itself is “hidden” from the road by hills. Upon reaching the hills, one enters the Fort Pitt tunnel and, after a few moments, emerges from it on a suspension bridge over the Monongahela River. Late at night, this was a truly breathtaking moment as the city and its rivers emerged suddenly in a mass of glittering lights. The ecstatic rush of the lighted city at night is portrayed in this section – amidst fragments from the opening, recalling the industrial past, now transformed into something new. (Published by Musik Fabrik)

"Horn Trio" (2004; op. 572) for horn, violin, and piano was commissioned by Harrison Nelson for Composers Concordance of New York City and is dedicated to Joseph Pehrson and Patrick Hardish, directors of Composers Concordance. The whole piece is based on a shared set of musical material, founded upon the interval of a perfect fifth. The work is a celebratory contemplation of the relationship between this world and the cosmos that contains it – not a pretentious “summing up” of this relationship, but rather an awe-filled contemplation. The opening movement, Windsong, begins with an irregular rhythmic ringing figure in the violin – supporting a melody in the horn. Both of these (rhythmic gesture and melody) are the principal material of the movement. The ringing tapestry continues to build towards the conclusion. The second movement, Interlude I: Forest Bells, is hushed. A brief chorale in the middle interrupts the sustained ringing. The third movement, Dream of Grass and Water, is slow and spare, with a ceremonial atmosphere. The fourth movement, Interlude II: Harbor Bells, is similar to the first interlude, though its material hints at the fifth movement. The fifth movement, Starsong, is celebratory. The principal theme is first introduced as an incantation by the violin and horn, over a piano ostinato. The movement builds a bit in texture until a brief slow section interrupts (recalling material from the previous movements). Finally, everyone is caught up again in the swell (with violin and horn singing ecstatically) and the movement presses on to its conclusion with a blaze of starlight. The last movement, Small Bear, Large Telescope, returns us to earth. It is inspired by a drawing of a small bear gazing into a huge telescope – awed by the cosmic vision he sees. A quiet, tolling pattern in the piano is the basis for simple melodic development – recalling material from the previous movements before tolling into eternity. (Published by MMB Music, Inc.)

"Concerto for Bass Trombone and Six Players" (2006; op. 678) was commissioned by the Carnegie Mellon School of Music for the Carnegie Mellon Contemporary Ensemble, Walter Morales, director. The work is dedicated to trombonist Jim Siders, for whom the solo part was written. The work is scored for solo bass trombone with an ensemble of primarily “dark” instruments – alto flute, clarinet, viola, cello, contrabass, and percussion. The solo bass trombone is the focal point of the musical discourse, acting throughout largely as a protagonist – with much material best described as bitterly lyrical. The work maintains a generally dark, obsessive, and bitter tone throughout. Unlike some concerti, however, the work is not about an aggression between soloist and the rest of the ensemble. Rather the bass trombone is “first” among a collection of like minded individuals – all expressing the same sentiments and aggressions. The opening section is marked “spasmodic.” Quiet nervous twitches serve as a backdrop to a melodic unfolding of the basic material and interval content. The end of this part “breaks apart” to reveal a section marked “slow, otherworldly.” The harmonic material starts modal, open, and “distant” in feeling (perhaps a recollection of a distant past) before becoming gradually gnarled again. The trombone leads towards the next section: an ever-building athletic “moto perpetuo.” This reaches its peak in an aggressive and horribly angry climax – with a wide-ranging trombone part marked “wildly raving; insane, ugly”, obliterated by bass drum hits and shrieking hammer blows from the other instruments. A nervous and timid interlude returns to the nervous twitching of the opening – though everything is slightly slower and more hushed than before, finally breaking off into an enigmatic coda. (Published by Musik Fabrik)

"Shining Space: Quintet for Horn and Strings" (2006) was commissioned by and is dedicated to Hazel Dean Davis and Stephen Hackbarth on the occasion of their marriage, June 24, 2006. The work was premiered by James Sommerville, horn with Sarah Kapustin and Francesca Anderegg, violins, Nathan Burke, viola, and Peter Lorenzo Anderegg, cello. The basic musical material for the work is a set of intervals which is gradually “expanded outward” – moving from close dissonance to luminous consonance. This could be seen to represent a sense of freedom, growth, and a bright future. The first movement, Bright Morning Sky, begins vibrantly with ecstatic ringing in the higher strings. The cello presents the work’s basic pitch material in dramatic gestures. The horn then enters: first abortively and then affirmatively – changing the texture to focus on itself. The horn continues lyrical melodic development while the strings react, dissipating their initial energy. Nervous tremolos in the strings start to build back energy again, leading to a wild climax. The music then relaxes into the next section marked “Slow, suspended.” The horn and strings interact melodically, supported by luminous harmonies. The nervous tremolos return, regaining energy towards the coda. The work ends with the ecstatic ringing of the opening – but, this time, the harmonic material is open and bright. The second movement, I Am the Vine, is serene and expressive – consisting of a series of canons which develop, break-off, and start again. The canons are almost always in two voices – representing two lives intertwining. The third movement, Chasing Windflower, returns to the energy of the opening movement. However, the harmonic language begins this time with the open sonorities. Darker colors (from the first movement) continue to interject, but are always overwhelmed by a sense of free-wheeling excitement. The work presses on to an ecstatic coda – with a sense of unfettered joy. (Published by Musik Fabrik)


Carson P. Cooman is one of the most active American composers of his generation, with over six hundred musical works in many forms, ranging from solo instrumental pieces to operas, and from orchestral works to hymn tunes. He is in continual demand for new commissions, and his music has and continues to be performed on all six inhabited continents. His work is published primarily by MMB Music, Inc. and Musik Fabrik (orchestral/instrumental music) and Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc. (organ/choral music) Recordings of Cooman’s music appear on over seven record labels and his music appears in the collections of most music libraries in the United States. Cooman’s primary composition studies have been with Bernard Rands, Judith Weir, Alan Fletcher and James Willey. As an active concert organist, Cooman specializes exclusively in the performance of new music. Over 120 new works have been composed for him by composers from around the world, and his performances of the contemporary composers can be heard on a number of CD recordings. Cooman is also a writer on musical subjects, producing articles and reviews frequently for a number of international publications. He is currently the editor of Living Music Journal and has edited musical works of other composers for numerous music publishers. For more information about Cooman’s music, visit his website at: https://www.tradebit.com

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