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Alex Shapiro, composer

TIGHT SQUEEZE
for concert wind band and prerecorded track.


Composed by Alex Shapiro


2013; Duration 3:15.
One movement work.
21 pages, 9" x 12".
Published by Activist Music (ASCAP).

Grade 4 and beyond.

 

Click here to listen! listen to TIGHT SQUEEZE

The full, streaming recording of the VanderCook College of Music Symphonic Band's performance of TIGHT SQUEEZE at the 2013 Midwest Clinic, conducted by Charles Menghini.

score cover

TIGHT SQUEEZE is available as a physical, bound set of score and parts plus audio download, or as a digital set of .pdf score and parts, plus audio download.

Click here to order from Activist Music ORDER TIGHT SQUEEZE

Click the happy green icon below to order from Hal Leonard ORDER TIGHT SQUEEZE

Hal Leonard

TIGHT SQUEEZE instrumentation

This work was commissioned by Composers and Schools in Concert, with the participation of a consortium of partners:

Matthew Frost, Friday Harbor High School, Washington
Miller Asbill, Brevard College, North Carolina
Brian Margrave, Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School, Colorado
Rob Lubbers, Dobson High School, Arizona
Stephanie Sanders, Berwick Academy, Maine
Steve Olsen, Rosemount High School, Minnesota
Mark Reid, Vancouver Technical Secondary School, B.C.

Special thanks to CSIC Executive Director Lisa Oman.

TIGHT SQUEEZE was premiered February 13, 2013, in Brevard, North Carolina at Brevard College, Miller Asbill conducting. Subsequent regional premieres have occurred across the U.S. throughout 2013 and 2014 by the commissioning partners.

THE LIVE RECORDING

Streaming MP3 The full, streaming recording of the VanderCook College of Music Symphonic Band's performance at the 2013 Midwest Clinic, conducted by Charles Menghini.
gull and lunch

THE SETUP NOTES

rehearsal notes The front and back pages of the score, including instrumentation and setup notes.
gull and lunch

THE PREP

CSIC interview Enjoy the Composers and Schools in Concert March 2013 interview with Alex and conductor Miller Asbill, in which they discuss the nitty gritty of scoring with electronics, rehearsing via Skype, and the true value of electricity.

 

WASBE World

Alex has written an extensive two-part article about electroacoustic band music and the uses of multimedia in the concert world. The first of the series, titled The e-Frontier: Music, Multimedia, Education, and Audiences in the Digital World, appears in the June 2014 issue of the magazine of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, WASBE World, and is offered here with the very kind permission of the organization.

Click here for the .pdf file read WASBE World Part 1

 

gull...p

THE CONDUCTOR SCORE
(email Alex for code access)

PERUSAL ONLY; not for performance or duplication.

score, 9 x 12 single-side .pdf file of the TRANSPOSED CONDUCTOR SCORE, 9 x 12; 25 pages including cover and notes.
gull... burp

THE PROGRAM NOTE

TIGHT SQUEEZE might best be described by the following suggestion: imagine Arnold Schoenberg, Henry Mancini, and Charlie Parker walking into a techno rave club in Havana. And, staying for at least three minutes.

On the heels of composing PAPER CUT, which pairs a wind band with not only an electronic track but a ream of printer paper, I knew I wanted to create another even more uptempo, groove-oriented piece that would be fun for fidgety teenagers with the attention spans of diabetic gnats. Okay, even fun for calmer musicians. Unexpectedly, that turned out to feature a twelve-tone row theme-- possibly the world's first for high school band, at least this far west of Vienna.

For the inner geek in you, here's the tone row theme, first splayed out in all its tutti mightiness at bar 7:

tone row theme

Initially the melody only had eight notes. When I noticed that none repeated themselves, I decided to go for broke, in a tip of the hat to my beloved 90-year old German composition teacher Ursula Mamlok, who was a renowned serialist during the earlier years of her career. The only serialism I've ever been interested in is granola, but I had a good time with this little tone row, which I paired with a techno-rock-infused percussion groove and electric bass line (yeah, I know, Schoenberg did that first), plus a few Latin rhythms and a hint of jazz. Voila: Electroacoustic Twelve-tone Techno Latin Bebop.

The twelve pitches are first introduced in all their chromatic glory at bars 7-10, and they reappear in different keys throughout the piece. The music, however, is not really in any key at all, since I only think in terms of keys if I'm locked out of my car. And if I were locked out of my car, this is probably the kind of thing I'd be hearing in my head while frantically trying to get back in.

Which leads to the title, which has nothing to do with my car. It has everything to do with a young gull who landed on a rock in front of my desk window as I was finishing this music, with a sizable flounder uh, floundering in his clamped beak. The rather goofy-looking bird was having a challenging time figuring out how to swallow his windfall. I said to the bird, "Wow, tight squeeze!", and immediately realized that all these notes that were cramming the score page would soon be squeezing through the students’ instruments, as snugly as a fat flounder in a gull's mouth. I also realized that talking to birds is pointless; they make lousy conversationalists.

 

Gull and flounder

Ok, this could be another local flatfish, like a sole, but I'm calling it a flounder just for the halibut because heck, you just don't see this every day.

THE COMPOSER'S THOUGHTS

Here's a short 2:22 excerpt from an interview CSIC did with Alex in Friday Harbor, WA, during a rehearsal of TIGHT SQUEEZE, in which she describes how the unusual mix of genres in the piece came about:

 

 

Teaching Music Through Performance

Alex's unique electroacoustic wind band pieces for high school musicians, TIGHT SQUEEZE, and PAPER CUT, will be featured in the field's best known book/CD series, Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, Volume 10, edited by Eugene Migliaro Corporon and released by GIA Publications December 2014.

 

CD
TIGHT SQUEEZE is among the pieces on VanderCook College's CD, 2013 Midwest Clinic: VanderCook College of Music Symphonic Band, on Mark Records. Click CD for more info.

 


THE REASONING BEHIND ALL THIS

I really care about education and about giving students opportunities to be challenged. My observation of much (not all) band music is that it's often very straight and plodding in rhythm, and lacking in chromaticism. TIGHT SQUEEZE is another of my humble attempts to broaden the scope of the repertoire. Yessirree folks, for one low price , just look at what's included:

The twelve tone row theme appears in several keys throughout the piece: it first starts on C, later it begins on D, and somewhere in there it also begins on Bb. Dizzying. Packets of Dramamine should be included with each score set. So, students will learn chromaticism by playing almost every note on their instrument!

They will learn syncopation!

They will learn to pay ridiculously close attention to articulations and phrasing! And maybe even to the band director!

And despite all this work, they'll be happy because they get to play really loudly!

But wait, there's more!

They'll get a feel for bebop and Latin jazz traditions-- especially important for the players who are not in a jazz band (oh, pity the oboists), but who deserve to play this quintessential American music. Lots of 21st century concert music is infused with various grooves, and classically trained musicians need to be comfortable with all genres. Just like this gull, they should learn to digest everything.

 


THE CSIC PROGRAM

Here's a three-minute video featuring three of CSIC's recent high school commissions, including TIGHT SQUEEZE:

 

 

gulp

Bottoms up!

burp

Alka Seltzer, anyone?

 

If the photos above made you laugh, you can enjoy witnessing the entire dining sequence by clicking over to Alex's blog, here blog post

The best way to reach Alex is through email,
by clicking here

You can also leave a voice message or a fax at:
(270) 916-0093.

All photographs by Alex Shapiro (which gives you some idea of what inspires this music!).

 

 

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