Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Composition Projects. 2015.

New pieces.

• Cradle of Rhythm (Concert Band) 5:00  Plankton Press (May, 2015) GR. 3

The latest premiere was presented on Friday, may 29, 2015 in the fantastic Kleinhans Concert Hall in Buffalo, New York.  I was commissioned to composer a piece of the Clarence High School Concert Band, Bill Eicher, director.  The piece was assembled as a "quilt" of rhythms and melodies that I heard while on concert tours with the Yale Concert Band in South Africa (2011) and Ghana (2014).  the concert band played it very well - with lots of energy, artistry, and excitement.  It is a real thrill when it all comes together and peaks at the concert!

I was one of a quartet of guest artists on this concert - which celebrated the 50th year of the Clarence High School in Kleinhans Concert Hall series.  My fellow composers were Robert Jager, whose Festival of Wind and Percussion was superbly played and well-received (I loved it; I want to perform it too!); David Maslanka, whose Hymn for World Peace was calming and moving, and powerful (I loved it; I want to perform it too!); and Arturo Sandoval, a mighty trumpeter who played with each group.  Now we are all friends!

Tom Duffy and Arturo Sandoval after the concert

  The experience was superlative.  My hosts - Bill Eicher and Lou Vitello - were completely committed to the quality of our experience, and started things off by introducing us to their extremely well-prepared ensembles.  We had fun and worked hard, both very important aspects of our successful interactions.  I extend my gratitude to the families of Mssrs. Eicher and Vitello - these two guys spent most of four days with us and/or their students!

The Sparrow and the Sunset (Concert Band) 5:00 Plankton Press (March, 2015) GR. 3

This piece was commissioned by the Bondurant (Kentucky) Middle School Band - Stephen Keyes, director - for its principal Casey Sparrow.  The people in this school have high respect for Mr. Sparrow and wanted to do something to show it.  I was asked to set the gospel hymn His Eye Is On The Sparrow for this band.  Mr Sparrow now has an eponymous tune!  I await news of the premiere.

• Ludwig Van Robot (String Orchestra) 7:30  Plankton Press (January, 2015)
This piece was commissioned by Leif Bjaland and the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra, Waterbury, CT.  He asked that I write piece that could open the all-Beethoven concert for the WSO, and would allow the professional strings to play with the members of the WSO Youth Orchestra.  So, while the piece was written for a professional-level string orchestra, there are parts that allows embryos to advanced players to join in - with the music and the choreography!

Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, opus 133, has intrigued musicians for almost two centuries. It was originally written as the final movement for the Opus 130 string quartet, but was “rejected” by the publishers as being “too enigmatic.” Beethoven agreed and rewrote the finale, leaving the Grosse Fuge as a separate entity. It has been described as impenetrable, enigmatic, and as a piece that will always be “contemporary music.”
         The fugue is a form of composition that presents thematic subjects in layers, which have to be carefully constructed so as to fit together. In Ludwig Van Robot, the mathematical components of the fugue are spun out in an almost mechanical fashion – repetitive fragments (all based on the theme from Beethoven’s Opus 133) grow to form rhythmic and melodic gestures, which break down and rebuild. One can hear the “circuitry” of the musical blueprint, lines connecting to other lines, which move in and out of the listener’s foreground. The performers also are part of the mechanized presentation – their bowings, pizzicato pluckings, and other body movements present a kind of visual fugue – not unlike the waves that pass through the bleachers at athletic events (although here they are in slow motion).
String Orchestra:
Violin 1
Violin 2

This piece has parts for younger players, who could join the more expert
string section. In each set, the professional parts are the first parts in each section (Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello 1, Contrabass 1) 

Back in the Blog

I can't believe that I haven't updates this blog in ... many years! Stupid.  Sorry.

International Projects.  Summer 2014.
The Yale Concert Band was fortunate to spend two weeks in Ghana, working with the Association of Yale Alumni to bring music and service to the capital of Accra, the city of Cape Coast and the village of Yamoransa.  This video clip tells the story:

3:00 video clip of Ghana project 2014:

Articles about the Ghana project

• Christian Science Monitor

• New Haven Register

• Yale School of Music newsletter:

• Yale Alumni Magazine:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Visit to Wampatuck Elementary School, Scituate, Massachusetts.  November 12, 2008.

On Wednesday, I spent some time with the students in the band at Wampatuck Elementary School in Scituate, Massachusetts.  My host was Kathleen Wooten, who has commissioned me to compose some music for the town's honor band.  Kathleen led the Wamptuck Band in performances of two of my pieces - The Little Factory and March of the Nightcrawlers.  The students played very well, and were very responsive to the suggestions that I made when I jumped up and ran them through The Little Factory.  

So, as I often do, I asked both groups to talk to me about what excites them in music, and were there any things in their town that might be the perfect subject materials for a "musical" profile (a program or story that the music could tell).  They had many ideas: the famous Bates lighthouse in town, the Lawson tower, the mysterious sea monster that washed up on their shores, the Italian freighter that ran aground on their beach, the ancient history of the town and its revolutionary roots, the general ideas of water and beach and wind, a student revolution (students take over!), the idea of time passing in school and clocks, a sequel to my other piece, Snakes! and much more.

I am going to think about this for two more days and then next week sit down and write the piece.  I am not sure exactly which ideas I will incorporate into the final composition, but I certainly received lots of enthusiastic input from these fun students.
Fanfare (2008). Four Horns and four trumpets.  Thomas C. Duffy, November 8, 2008.

I was asked to write a short fanfare for the dedication of the renovated Rudolph Building/ Loria Center- Yale University's Art and Architecture Buildings.  The fanfare for the dedication of the opening of the Rudolph Building in 1963 was composed by Yale faculty/composer Quincy Porter.  His fanfare was for four horns, and is about one minute long.

I wrote Fanfare, a short 1:15 piece for four horns and four trumpets.  I tried to make my fanafare reflect the aesthetic that an architect must wrestle with here at Yale - that is, a contemporary structure in a traditional setting.  My fanfare begins with the sounds of machines and building, with pieces of "shiny metal" here and there, and then a little simple melody, fugued in Baroque style, complete with tonal answers to the little six-note theme.  

You can see the whole ceremony at (click on Video: Rededication of Paul Rudolph's "art and Architecture Building."

We premiered Fanfare on Saturday, November 8, 2008.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It is October, 2008, and I am working on several commmissions. The first is a piece for the Bloomfield Public School system in Bloomfield, CT, commissioned by Dr. Joseph Olzacki. It will be for wind band, chorus, and will be a self-authored text. The topic will be "Karma," the theme of the year for the arts programs in Bloomfield. The performance will be in the Bushnell Auditorium, Hartford, CT on March 31, 2009.

The second is a piece for the fifth grade honor band in Scituate, Massachusetts, commissioned by Catherine Wooten. I meet with the band in November to discuss the piece, but it could be that this next piece will be the sequel to my best -selling Snakes! Anything could happen!

The third is a fanfare for dedication of the Rudolf Buiding at Yale University. The fanfare is for 4 horn and 4 trumpets and will be premiered on Nov. 8, 2008.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Now it is April, 2008 and I have several interesting premieres in the last few months.

April 10. Premiere of my piece, Who Am I?, commissioned by Joseph Olzacki for the Bloomfield Connecticut School system. The premiere was presented in Hartford's Bushnell Auditorium. it was a superb event. I hope to post more info about this piece for chorus and band soon.

To the Horizon was premiered in February by Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska, David Bohnert, music director. They did a great job with a difficult piece. I will post a MP3 soon.

Friday, April 11, 2008


I have completed the composition, Visions. It was premiered on March 29, 2007, in Hartford's Bushnell Auditorium by the combined forces of the Bloomfield Public Schools music programs. I was not there, but I heard that the premiere was quite well received. I finished the composition for the Hillsboro, New Hampshire school system, Entitled "Sally's Gallery," the piece is four movements. Movement 1 is for the 5th grade band, "The Little Factory." The music is a rhythmic set of machine sounds and motor rhythms, complete with "factory whistles" and percussive sounds from stomping and clapping. The second movement, "Presidential Playground," is for the middle school band and is a muscial depiction of what the playground noise might have sounded like if there were playgrounds in Hillsboro in 1804, when Hillsboro native and US 14th president, Franklin Pierce, would have been a boy and played outside. The third movement is for the high school. "Stone Ghosts" reflects the images of the cemeteries in Hillsboro, and the kinds of sounds that one might hear or imagine in and around them. The final movement is for all three bands combined. "Sunday, July 4th" is a piece that presents a Sunday chior practice on Sunday, July 4th, interrupted by the sounds of the 4th of July marching band parading past. The piece will be premiered in Hillsboro, New Hampshire, on May 19th. Commissions: I have accepted commissions from a school system in Hillsboro, New Hampshire, to write a four-movement piece for the whole music program in the town! First movement - youngest ensembles, second movement middle school groups, third movement- high school groups - fourth movement - tutti! This should be great fun. It will be premiered in May of 2007. I am finishing a commission for band and chorus for Bloomfield High School (CT). Entitled "Visions",It will be premiered in the Bushnell Auditorium on March 30,f 2007. Part of the mystical aspect of the music is reflected through the use of a crystal glass choir (my first glasses piece was Crystals - Ludwig Music Publishing Company, 1987). I have written the words as well.