Instrumentation: Flute, Clarinet, Bassoon, Bassoon, Trumpet, Trumpet, Trombone, Bass Trombone
Duration: 9:00
Performers: Elevate Ensemble, cond. Chad Goodman
Commissioned by Elevate Ensemble
Premiered by Elevate Ensemble at Hume Concert Hall, San Francisco, on Oct 2, 2016

Program Notes

Don’t Look At is an expansion and recomposition of my short trombone duet Puppies!!! Written for the same instrumentation as Stravinsky’s Octet for Winds, it takes the materials from the earlier piece and reinterprets them for larger forces. Puppies!!!, however, uses a lot of glissandi (sliding pitches), which don’t necessarily translate all that well for other instruments. Especially in this ensemble, the other woodwinds and brass involved are not particularly designed for glissandi.

This means I had to do a fair amount of reimagining and reinterpreting to make the piece work. I took the core ideas from Puppies!!!, but I had to transform them significantly. It’s not so much a question of “take this piano chord and write it for strings,” it more like, “take this piano, and make it sound like a flute.”

This proved to be a rewarding challenge. The material went in unexpected directions and turned into something I wouldn’t have expected, but that I quite like. And since the piece is inspired by a trombone duet, I thought of the famous mis-quote of Richard Strauss. Everyone thinks he said, “Don’t look at the trombones, it only encourages them,” but in fact he just said something like, “Be brief and direct with the brass when you cue them.” Very different sentiments, but the myth has lived on. In the same way, Don’t Look At misrepresents the ethos of Puppies!!! in many ways, but in the process it turns into something else that is interesting in its own right.