STRATA
David Sampson (1999)

Strata was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Brass Quintet and completed on January 1, 1999. It is dedicated to the American Brass Quintet in celebration of their 30th year in residence at the Aspen Music Festival. The work is comprised of three movements and has a performance time of sixteen minutes. Having composed two quintets previously for the American Brass Quintet, Morning Music and Distant Voices, I began the third with a desire to expand upon what I had already written, yet refer to the other two. As a result, I chose to begin the first movement with the trumpeters playing flügelhorns as I did in my first quintet Morning Music. While this darker texture was a nod to the earlier quintet, Strata begins with slowly shifting harmonies and no themes or counterpoint, in direct contrast to Morning Music. The music of LaMonte Young influenced this section because of a series of recent performances I was involved in as trumpeter with Young’s ensemble. Following this meditative music is a rhythmic and pointillistic section with the trumpeters now on trumpets but in Harmon mute, the trombones in straight mute, and muted horn. Motives abound and there is much playful interaction between all five players.

The second movement is an introspective dirge with no direct thematic connection to either quintet but similar emotional content to both. There is also a hint at the techniques of Arvo Pärt with close harmonies and restricted material. The texture is again dark because of flügelhorns and the bass trombone is featured with an extended solo in the middle of the movement. As the third movement begins, we hear for the first time a trumpet unmuted followed by the rest of the group in a freely shaped introduction. Slightly jazzy material is then heard which is developed during the rest of the movement. Reminiscent of the James Agee movement of Distant Voices, it ends with one final fortissimo riff.

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