I wrote Puppies!!! for Elevate Ensemble’s “Stravinsky: Reconstructed” program. The task was to create a short duet for trombone and bass trombone, showcasing the characteristics that make the trombone unique. Of course, I turned to glissandi (sliding pitches), the sine qua non of the trombone. But I also didn’t want the piece to be a cliché, as so many trombone pieces are glissando-heavy.
So I started playing around with a figure that alternates small, quick glissandi between each trombone, back and forth. That worked for me, taking the music in directions that seemed fresh and interesting. Also, somehow this kind of sliding, rambling interplay reminded me of the way puppies play together, tumbling on top of each other over and over. My wife loves dogs, but we can’t have pets right now, and whenever she sees a cute puppy she’s so happy. So I decided to name the piece Puppies!!! as a sort of dedication to her.