Full orchestra: 3 flutes (1 doubles piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 Bb clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 C trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, F tuba, timpani, 3 percussion: [1 - xylophone, marimba, orchestra bells, suspended cymbal, triangle (small)], [2 - suspended cymbal, ride cymbal, tam-tam (large), tom-toms (medium, low), wood blocks (high, medium)], [3 - bongos, snare drum, bass drum, crash cymbals, crotales], piano, strings

Duration: 12 minutes

Commissioned By:
Des Moines Symphony Association, with funding provided by The Principal Financial Group Foundation, Inc.

November 11, 1995 by the Des Moines Symphony, Joseph Giunta, conductor, in Des Moines, IA

Available From:
Oxford University Press, rented by C.F. Peters

Composer's Notes:
Blue Fiddler is an essay which explores the relationship between American blues and country fiddling and the symphonic tradition. I love almost every kind of music including the blues, classical music, and country fiddling. Buddy Guy, Ethel Waters and BB King are among my musical heroes, as are Berlioz, Boulez, and Mozart. I wanted to compose a work which asks the musicians to move quickly between styles of playing, such as country fiddling and romantic string playing, or classical brass technique and jazz brass technique. I created a blues scale as the tonal basis for this piece.

The work is in three uninterrupted sections. The first section is built around a country fiddling motive of open fifths and the blues scale, heard in a dotted rhythm. The second section contains a lengthy oboe solo and is slower and freer in feeling. The third section transforms the blues scale from a more relaxed country blues feeling to a more aggressive urban blues feeling. The ascending blues scale recognized from the previous sections is now answered with a descending blues scale. The interplay of the two scales grows in intensity right to the end of the piece.

The musical discussion of the work centers around the word "blue" which has many meanings in American culture. Among its uses, it is used to identify a color (blue), to name a kind of music (the Blues), to suggest the unknown (out of the blue), to express melancholy (I feel blue), and to classify something as indecent (blue jokes, blue movies). These various definitions help me form the question in this musical essay. Within the core repertoire of the traditional orchestra, how does music which uses vernacular musical language and a mix of classical and vernacular performance techniques find itself? Is it surprising, unknown, and perhaps to some, taboo? And if so, how can music which is originally American, such as fiddling and the blues, find its footing in the orchestral tradition?

— Libby Larsen
To rent this piece, please visit C.F. Peters.

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