The fabulous Betsy Bobenhouse was able to get a little funding together for a commission to write a piece for her student recorder ensemble. Having never written for recorder ensemble before, I quickly sent of messages to composer friends asking for advice. It turns out that I’m not friends with any composers who have written for recorder ensemble. Once I finally grasped the idea that recorder players actually memorize two different sets of fingerings, I was off. As I let my mind wander about, I found that I wanted to write some little animal pieces after the manner of a medieval bestiary.
I. Les oiseaux (birds)
For this one, I was just thinking of a bird in a garden
II. I grilli (crickets)
Here I was thinking of the fun rhythms that crickets make when they don’t line up perfectly. I was also thinking of a recording of crickets that was slowed down that I heard once. It sounded like the music of the spheres, so I had the tenor and bass play pitches from the harmonic series.
III. Die Würmer (worms)
This one exploits the ability of recorder players to partially cover the holes and slide around. It’s creepy.
IV. Los escarabajos (beatles)
This one has a funny story. I was premiering a short song cycle that I had written with my soprano friend Eugenia at the Regional Southeastern College Music Society some years ago. After hearing some dense atonal music, my friend talked about how it made her feel. She said it was music filled with ugliness and hatred. Right before we went on, there was a minimalist piece that was tonal and energetic. I asked her how she felt about it. She said it was evil too. “Why?!” I asked – somewhat shocked. “Because,” she replied, “it sounds like insects crawling around in your brain.” Ever since, I have associated minimalism with small creeping animals.
V. Les papillons (butterflies)
Of course, butterflies are a necessary part of any Garden Bestiary.