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Gunther Schuller

Publisher: AMP

Headin’ Out, Movin’ In (1994)
Margun Music
Works for Band/Wind/Brass Ensemble
Sub Category
Jazz Band
Year Composed
12 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Tenor Saxophone
Programme Note
Gunther Schuller Headin’ Out, Movin’ In (1994)
Composer Note:

Headin’ Out, Movin’ In, as its title suggests, moves “in” and “out” of the mainstream tradition. Starting quietly with a free-association cadenza, a trio of two bass clarinets and contrabass clarinet begins a long upward climb from mysterious subterranean sounds to a bright in-tempo bopish tune. Although the slower “ascent” over a long accelerando and crescendo may sound improvised to the casual listener—that was the intention—it was composed, all written out, using the entire reservoir of sonoric effects extractable from the 13-piece ensemble: murky bass clarinet undulations, watery vibraphone sounds, ominous brass cluster, sudden chordal guitar punctuations, rumbling bass figures, tenor saxophone interjections, and so on.

Sudden tempo changes, accelerations and decelerations modify the two choruses of tenor saxophone solo, which lead via a six-bar ensemble variant of the first “head.” Little by little the orchestra sneaks back in, until the tenor solo is completely engulfed by the band. A tam-tam “hit” and a quadruple-stop bass tremolo leads to a calming of the tempo and a “free” out-of-tempo variation. Fragmented, furtive sounds contrast with a muted low-brass chorale and a brief return of the opening trio (this time in their highest register). Unexpectedly a lonely high-register bass tremolo turns into a three-octave descending tremolo-glissando, from which there emerges a gigantic all-out collective improvisation over a constantly accelerating tempo—all capped by a “sudden-death” ending.

—Gunther Schuller

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