We live in a fast-paced society and everything seems to be fighting to grab our attention. Intellectual and artistic pursuits are sometimes disregarded because of length, difficulty, or traditional means of distribution. Since there is such an interest in social media and quickly picking up snippets of information, now is an excellent time to connect art musicians to the public with short, emotionally accessible pieces through live performance and social media. As a composer and musicologist, I find it very important to bring new music to a variety of people because it has the potential to open up new experiences and feelings in people who don’t normally attend concerts.
The project entitled Moment Miniatures is a series of fifty short pieces that were written in 2016. They are all between one and three minutes and are for a multitude of instruments. The miniatures are all based on a specific mood, and the goal is for the audience to feel the piece’s emotion by the time the piece concludes.* Similar to the ancient Greek’s doctrine of ethos and the Baroque’s doctrine of the affections, these small works are meant to rouse a distinct, shared emotion within the audience through contemporary art music.
*I realize that many may not aurally agree with how the moods are illustrated (especially if they grew up in a culture and society different from my own); however, this is just my own interpretation of feeling and is by no means the only interpretation.
Because of the extreme differences in mood for each miniature, I use different musical elements to represent the emotions of the pieces. Some pieces have unique and varied timbres that are expanded through the use of extended techniques, while others use entirely regular playing styles. However, with each piece I chose an instrumentation that represented the feeling I wanted to portray. Some pieces have traditionally written meter and rhythm, while others are unmetered with timing determined more by the performer. However, each miniature is consistent with itself. In some pieces I use pitch class sets to determine the harmonic material, while others are modal or pitch-centric. However, all have long-range shape that leads to a specific climax or point of arrival. Below are just a few of the many ways I used different musical elements to create the atmosphere of the music.
Timbre plays a major role in illustrating the mood. For example, in Anger, extended techniques such as multiphonics and smack tone are used to bring more power to the tuba's sound.
In Cleansing, the horn moves from stopped horn to no mute while playing multiphonics. This timbre change represents the clearing out of old ideas, stagnant energy, and toxins.
In Presentiment, different mallet types are used to give a sense of foreboding.
InWanderlust the contrabass has snap pizz, changes in bow placement, and harmonics in order to create a feeling of restlessness.
In Apprehensive, the voice has slides in certain places (m. 6 in excerpt) to indicate a resistance in moving to the next note.
In Relieved, the flute moves from a higher register to a low register. The sung tones that produce multiphonics ground the music and create a more steady atmosphere.
Several of the pieces use tempo, rhythm or meter to convey their particular mood. In Determined, the bass trombone has a driving rhythm and the tempo accelerates throughout the entire piece.
For Anticipation, accents are placed on the note before the down beat in order to convey the mood as the xylophone reaches higher notes.
The violin solo, Stressed, has repeated notes that speed up and eventually lead to a tremolo while the timbre changes from regular to harmonics.
In Inspired, the oboe has grace notes that impact the piece's timing. As the piece goes on, more an more grace note figures are added to create a sense of expanded possibilities in creative thought.
For Frustrated, the vocalist has freedom to take more or less time on specific notes as long as the timing fits within a certain range.
The horizontal and sometimes vertical harmonic languages vary depending on the mood of the piece. In Confined, the pitch material was limited by the range of the slide on the trombone, which gives a sense of being trapped.
Peculiar has a form somewhat like a prelude and fugue, except the sections are in reverse order. The traditional form and texture for a harpsichord piece ground it in Baroque period traditions, but it sounds peculiar because the harmonies are based on the opening line. I use the pitch class system (as well as cluster chord techniques) which were not developed until the twentieth century.
At Wit's End is modal. The soprano sings in both dorian and lydian depending on the section. The flat two of the dorian scale and the raised four of the lydian scale add dissonance and therefore, tension.
In Vindictive, I use  as the basis for my pitch material. The saxophone has a prominence of major and minor seconds and minor thirds, which within the context of the piece, have an ominous and vengeful sound.
Although the timpani only has five pitches throughout the Motivated miniature, they imply tonality.