Copyright © 2017-19 by Jordan Kuspa

TOP FIVE

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Composed in 2008

Duration: 18:00

Instrumentation: 2 trumpets, horn, trombone, tuba

 

I. The Accidental Octatonist

II. The Mysterious W.T.

III. The Common Sneak Thief

IV. Gothic Nocturn

V. Premeditated Octophony

 

While I was a sophomore at Rice University, my teacher Arthur Gottschalk gave me a seemingly impossible assignment.  He said, “I want you to write the world’s greatest brass quintet.”  Immediately I shot back, “How about top five?”

 

I began by writing the chorale that opens Top Five.  After looking at the opening bars, I noticed that I had inadvertently used notes belonging to an octatonic scale, a non-diatonic scale favored by Stravinsky.  Hence, “The Accidental Octatonist.”  I decided that the rest of the movement would utilize this scale and that I would tie the other fast movements together by using other octatonic scales (suggesting “Premeditated Octophony”).

 

The second movement utilizes the whole tone scale (the “W.T.” of the title), a scale often used by Debussy.  Like the octatonic scale, the whole tone scale is symmetrical.  But here the balance is upset by the addition of another pitch, creating a tonal pull towards the new note.  This movement also introduces a motive (first heard in the tuba) that recurs throughout the third and fourth movements.  The third movement steals bits from over a dozen classic masterworks and fuses them in cheeky tribute, while the fourth movement, “Gothic Nocturn,” suggests an ancient nighttime processional.

 

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First Performance: October 2nd, 2008, New Music New Haven

Morse Recital Hall, Yale University, New Haven, CT

Douglas Lindsey and Michael Brest, trumpets; Donna Yoo, horn, Achilles  Liarmakopoulos, trombone; Stephanie Fairbarn Ycaza, tuba

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