Make More Noise With This One Weird Trick

In 2017, Dr. Chris Van Hof approached me to commission a piece for two trombones and track to be performed at the 2018 International Trombone Festival. I jumped at the chance to write some virtuosic brass music for some friends!

Its premiere will be July 12, 2018 in Iowa City, Iowa – performed by Dr. Van Hof and Evan Conroy. Although I can’t make it in person, I’m sure it will be great. These guys are fantastic musicians!!

From the official ITF schedule:

2:00 PM, Vox 2301 – Recital Hall

Recital: University Faculty Showcase II

The ITF is excited to announce the University Faculty Showcase, an all-new recital series aimed at celebrating the artistry, diversity, and vision of collegiate teachers from around the US and the world. From expanding repertoire to pushing the envelope on performance techniques, to training the next generation of teachers, performers, and enthusiasts, college teachers bring an energy, enthusiasm, and expertise to the ITF that we are excited to celebrate and share. The teaching artists you will hear today were chosen through a competitive, peer-reviewed application process.

Dr. Chris Van Hof, Ball State University

Evan Conroy, Southern University

Make More Noise With This One Weird Trick World Premiere….……….…..Chris Beckstrom (b.1984)

I love that they put my birth year on there. Makes me seem so legit!

Notes about the piece

There was a short period in the early 1980’s when the blossoming musical styles of hip-hop and techno had considerable overlap. This sound, known as “electro funk” or simply “electro,” experienced a fleeting mainstream popularity with Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” and Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit.” Although electro soon returned to the underground, its development continued and its influence would periodically affect the course of both techno and hip-hop, sometimes branching off into distinct substyles like Miami bass.

This piece uses electro as a rhythmic framework; indeed, rhythm is the primary focus here, leaving harmony and melody to occupy secondary roles. Laser sounds, modular glitches, snippets of radio broadcasts, and unidentifiable slices of audio occupy are layered to make even more noise.

In creating this music I used a variety of techniques. The drum sounds and about half of the trombone lines were algorithmically generated using a program called Tidal Cycles. The majority of the sounds were created on my homemade modular synthesizer, but also featured are sounds from the Korg Volca Keys, a cheap tube preamp, and Pure Data. The sound of the Roland TR-808 cowbell, used extensively in electro, became the rhythmic centerpiece around which the other parts were built. Throughout the piece a variety of other influences can be heard: my favorite electro artists Japanese Telecom and Drexciya, jazz-influenced chords, James Brown-like breakdowns (“give the [algorithmic] drummer some!”), and atonal sound clusters inspired by some of my other musical heroes, Iannis Xenakis and Anton Webern. The end of the piece moves into polymeter (5/8,3/4, and 4/4 stacked on top of each other – I also love traditional African music!) and harmonically draws from modern jazz like Robert Glasper and Snarky Puppy.

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