Trumpet quartet sheet music for Hogsback Haven is available at:
Hogsback South Africa
The musical ideas for Hogsback Have come from a trip Pearl and I took to South Africa in 2016. We took her mother on a short get-away to Hogsback and I recorded a number of musical inspirations while we were there.
For those who don’t know, Hogsback is the small town in the mountains that J.R.R. Tolkien lived as a child. It was his time in South Africa, living in Hogsback, that inspired much of his imagery and characters in his very popular books, The Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings.
I may have mentioned this on the blog before. My composition process separates inspiration and craft. Craft is what happens when I sit down at the computer and WORK on making the music functional. Inspiration is something that typically happens when I am out and about.
To me, inspirations are musical ideas that come into my mind unbidden. I do not loo for them. I believe they are gifts from God and He gives them to me according to His perfect timing.
That’s why I typically carry something to write with. When I have nothing to write with, I will sing the idea into my phone (if it’s a melody).
I save these inspirations until I have a project for which I can use them. The following photo is of a collection of these inspirations from the past few years.
Hogsback Haven Trumpet Quartet
Hogsback Haven was composed about six months after we returned to Houston after our trip to South Africa. It is a rhapsody of many themes directly inspired from our time in Hogsback.
The reason it took me so long to get to it was because I composed Hopewell Suite first, which was also built from inspirations that I collected during our trip to South Africa. And the Hopewell Suite is much more major than Hogsback Haven. It is seven movements for six trumpets and took me about six months to finish composing.
In a sense, you can almost say that Hogsback Haven is a sequel to Hopewell Suite.
Hogsback Haven Skill Level
We are putting the skill level for Hogsback Haven at the Trumpet Master level, not because the parts are that difficult, but because the ensemble work is very tricky. The rhythms and how they fit together require some effort on the part of the ensemble. It will need some rehearsals to get right.
South African Musical Influence
Before our short excursion to Hogsback, I had the privilege of teaching and performing in the jazz festival in Grahamstown for about ten days. I was hired to teach trumpet and some jazz history and to perform with the Afrika Mkhize big band.
What happened to me in South Africa on that trip was similar, but at a smaller scale, to what happened to me with the salsa groups I used to play with. The music infected me. I started to hear it in my mind and see it everywhere.
In fact, there is actually some overlap in the two styles. Which makes sense because the roots of salsa are in Africa. The clave, which is the basic rhythm central to all salsa music, is rooted in western Africa.
These rhythms, first the clave, but now some of the South African stuff, are what make my “classical” compositions sound so different. I can’t NOT compose that way anymore because this is what I hear.
By the way, I noticed some salsa influences when I was in Grahamstown. I didn’t point any of it out because I was a guest and it seemed to be rude to me to sound like I knew something about South African jazz. All I’m saying is I heard recognizable salsa rhythms. The big difference in what I heard there was that in South Africa it was okay to cross the clave, and the salsa guys I used to work with were puro salseros. They would never cross clave.
For the most part, that’s how I write, too. And it’s more than just not crossing the clave. When a groove is established in my compositions, I do not cross that groove. In classical music you see that a lot. They will pull the rug from under you just to make everyone get a jolt, performers and audiences alike. But as a 20 year veteran of salsa music in the Houston area, I learned to honor the clave and I apply that concept across all of my composition…..most of the time.
You can see and hear this commitment to not crossing the groove in Hogsback Haven. There are distinct sections with different grooves. When I change from one to the other, I stay true to that groove until it’s time to switch. No proverbial rug pulling going on. I know the rug pulling can be fun for the musicians because it’s hard to do without screwing up. Our band directors have been feeding us rug pulling since we were in middle school and it’s a great educational tool. But it’s not very musical.
My Recording of Hogsback Haven
I don’t like my recording of this piece because I was struggling with the pitch on the flugelhorn parts. I would like to some day go back and redo it on my new (but old) Cuesnon.