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Composer Jenni Brandon Collaborates with Chamber Ensembles

March 15, 2019

As part of the College of Communication & Fine Arts (CFA), Visiting Artist and Lecture Series, in the Department of Music, composer Jenni Brandon came to Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in March 2019 to work with students in the Chamber Music Ensembles Class. Chance Yagi, Cole Scanlon, Jade Sundstrom and Charles Berg performed Brandon’s Sea Quartet for oboe, clarinet, bassoon and piano at the Spring Chamber Music Concert in April.

Jenni Brandon is an award-winning composer, conductor, and mezzo-soprano who enjoys engaging with performers and audiences, often giving talks about the business of music and the art of collaboration. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Sorel Medallion, the American Prize for Choral Composition, the Women Composers Festival of Hartford International Composition Competition, and the Bassoon Chamber Music Composition Competition.

During the session at LMU, the students gained insight into the compositional process and learned about the origin and inspiration for the piece. The session was lively and interactive, culminating in an exploration of a new dimension in the music.

“By adding an aleatoric element (an opportunity for the performers to determine what pitches and rhythms to play within the given parameters) not originally in the score, Brandon and the student performers collaborated to create a more impactful realization of the programmatic music evoking swirling and joyful ocean waves,” said Dr. Tania Fleischer, director of the LMU Chamber Ensembles.

Sea Quartet for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and piano (sheet music). – This magical place brings to us the beauty of the sea, from the creatures that call it home to the delicate coral reefs and fragile ecosystems that depend on the balance of the sea for their survival.

This piece uses each of the instruments to tell the story of the sea in various sections, from the playful waves to a “watery waltz;” from the “gentle pulse of the wave,” to the clarinet’s “moonlight” solo. The relative calmness of the sea finally begins to break as the waves move faster and faster, creating a “wild, frothy frenzy” at the end of the piece. At this point the instruments joyfully crash over one another, and we are left with the feeling of the power and excitement of the sea.

Commissioned by the L.A. Musical Salon as part of my composer residency with the Vientos Trio during 2008-2009 and written specifically for a premiere at the L.A. Musical Salon with Rose Chen on March 7, 2009, I believe that a quote from the poem The Secret of the Sea by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gives a wonderful impression of what this piece is truly all about:

“Till my soul is full of longing

For the secret of the sea,

And the heart of the great ocean

Sends a thrilling pulse through me.”