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American Vignettes was composed during 2011 for the Lyric Brass of Pacific Lutheran University. They were looking for a composition to include on a CD of American music and one that would feature each of the musicians. The first movement, “Barn Dance”, features the first trumpet and after a syncopated, fanfare-style introduction, the movement uses fragments and elaborations of "Old Chisholm Trail" and "Short’nin Bread". For the second movement, I wanted to write a blues and feature the other trumpet player on Flugelhorn. As I was working on the movement, the blues seem very mysterious and lonely, so I titled the movement 4 A.M. Blues. It reflects someone who can’t sleep and is contemplating the deep mysteries of life and feels very alone in the world. Movement 3 is the tuba feature and is called "Spirituals". I use three different spirituals in this movement, "Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen". "Cotton Needs Picking" and "Every Time I Feel the Spirit." Movement 4 “Fiesta” is a trombone feature and represents the Southwest. The Southwestern flavor is accomplished through alternating 6/8 and 3/4 and the bright colors of the muted brass playing staccato eighth note rhythms and "ay" sounding motifs. The Horn is featured in the fifth movement “From Sea to Shining Sea” that starts with a jazz harmony version of “America the Beautiful” followed by a jazz waltz built from motifs of the song. The last movement is called “Harlem Jump” and is an up-tempo jive with Be-bop type solos written for each of the musicians.
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