I wish the world were more focused on chamber music. Before the days of radios, televisions, and the internet, more people were musically inclined, because they had to create something for themselves to listen to. Today, we just have to youtube our favorite song and jam out for hours. There's nothing wrong with that, but there are just so many stories that can be told around a good woodwind quintet. Right now I'm in a group at USC that I adore, and we're working towards a gig next month, with the big piece on the program being Hindemith's woodwind quintet. I've performed this work before with the GoDiva quintet (shout outs to Megan, Kofi, Kyle, and Phillip) but I'm a good enough musician at this point to focus on what's between the staves, so to speak. Many of you know that I create crazy stories in my head to help me play a piece of music, so I thought I'd share my "Kleine Kammermusik" tale. Listen to the piece (if you're not familiar) and see if this makes any sense to you.
Most woodwind quintets (the music, not always [but sometimes] the players) feature the instruments in pretty specific and differing ways, while working towards a common musical goal. In my story there are 5 individuals coming up with a scheme to kill the king of their mystical, post-apocalyptic society. The flute represents the acting leader, but the clarinet is really the brains behind the job. The oboe is the eldest, and therefore gives approval for everything done. The bassoon is the wisest (naturally) but older, so not as nimble as the rest. The horn represents the person with brute force and power.
The piece opens up with the clarinet introducing his distaste of the king to his four friends, and his ideas about how they should deal with him. Everyone is involved in this, except for the flute, who needs some further convincing. The oboe re-affirms the clarinets statement, and the flute is finally on board. The oboe takes over to explain logistics, and the flute sets specific plans in motion. Since the clarinet is the true leader, he has a conversation with the flute, passing ideas back and forth until he finally wins, having the last word. The bassoon has a small solo after the clarinet finishes, and this is his discovery of a great detail that will help with the scheme; he shrills in excitement. At this point everything is official, the bassoon confirms it all with his second interjection, and the movement ends with the clarinet nodding his head in approval.
The second movement is a weird waltz, and this is the party the group throws inviting the unknowing victim. On the outside it seems like a very proper affair, but an evil undertow exists throughout the movement as the quintet dances with each other. The fun is interrupted by the tired old bassoon, who fakes fatigue to get everyone out of the house. He's tired of the company. As soon as everyone is gone, they kick the music back up, rubbing their hands and laughing at what is to come.
In the third movement we see the softer, more intimate side of the group. It's a casual Sunday morning, and everything is light, until the flute, clarinet, and horn decide to bring up the topic of what's happening tomorrow.The oboe plays a very menacing solo, which represents her innermost thoughts of distaste toward the king. The bassoon joins, showing evil greed himself. The flute comes back in to remind everyone that they should relax and enjoy the quiet day, but the horn brings it back up soon enough. The soft ending shows every one's complete satisfaction with their plans.
The fourth movement, musical, is compiled of tutti sections interrupted by quick cadenzas from each of the instruments. This is the group individually displaying their weapon of choice before they go off into battle.
The final movement is a collection of running, ducking, dodging, getting past guards, and so on. Some of it involves solo fake stories and bribes from the flute, clarinet, and oboe. As the end of the movement approaches, it grows from a soft opening of the royal chamber door to a loud boisterous fight. There's havoc in the room where the king is resting, and after the dust settles 5 people are standing over the unconscious man. The last three chords are the group members looking at each other in satisfaction - "It. Is. Done."
...where do I come up with this nonsense???
Listening to: Kleine Kammermusik