Camera Oscura

22 minutes

Instrumentation:  Flute (Piccolo), Oboe (English Horn), Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon, Violin, Viola, Violoncello, Double Bass

World premiere: CMC 75th Anniversary Season summer 2020 POSTPONED due to COVID-19 pandemic. Re-scheduled to July 30, 2022, Colgate University, New York.  

Program notes: 

Camera Oscura ('darkroom') for nine players was composed in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Summer Music Camp for Can't-Get-Enough-Chamber-Music Aficionados, aka the Chamber Music Conference and Composers' Forum of the East. Over the course of four movements (Fanfares, Songs, Scherzo and Lament), this nonet explores musical kernels imbedded in the names of some of my favorite composers in the rich history of chamber music. (And of course I'm not alone in loving the music of these composers.) I imagine Ansel Adams in his darkroom developing photographic iconography from Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada, seeing the images emerge from the acidic bath. These musical evocations are not, however, about style, so for example in the third movement scherzo the names Mozart, Schubert and Brahms generate the material, not their musical styles. The first movement fanfares are made from Martinu, Barber, Stravinsky and Schoenberg; the string accompaniment in the second movement songs comes from the name Britten. Benjamin Britten himself likely wouldn't have chosen these jazzy chords, but carving the subject out of his name did. Though perhaps sounding just a tad arcane, this is a time-honored means of communication by composers across centuries (for example, Schumann's Abegg Variations, Josquin's Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae, B-A-C-H and D-S-C-H among myriad others). In addition to the noisy fanfares introduced by the traditional nonet (woodwind quintet + a quartet of strings - violin, viola, cello and bass), there are smaller combinations based on iconic pieces in the rep, for example, oboe quartet, clarinet quintet, Schubert octet, woodwind quintet, string trio, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                           - Donald Crockett

Camera Oscura was commissioned by the Chamber Music Conference and Composers' Forum of the East for its 75th Anniversary Season, with the generous support of Tara Kazak and Fan Tao, and completed in March 2020.  The world premiere took place at the Chamber Music Conference, Colgate University on July 30, 2022 with CMC artist-faculty conducted by the composer.