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Composition Notes and Reviews


Sea Scenes Intertwined Arizona Views II



Sea Scenes - by Caryn Block


Sea Scenes for Flute, Violin and Cello, composed in Spring 2010, was inspired by a visit to the beautiful colonial seaport of Newport, Rhode Island, in 2000 to participate in the Edith Wharton Society International Conference as a composer. The unparalleled beauty of the landscape—the vista of the Atlantic Ocean, the rocky coastline and magnificent architecture of the great mansions of the Gilded Age built along the ocean—presents as one of the most beautiful of all American summer resorts.


The composition is one of a group of works concerned with two themes related to Newport: the civilized, historical mansions and the wildness and unpredictability of nature and the sea. This unique location has inspired the creation of such works as "Newport by the Sea" for flute, cello and piano, whose movements, "Mansions of Splendor" and "Sea at Daybreak" depict this dichotomy and "Euryalus" for flute, narrator and incidental piano, based on the poetry of Edith Wharton.


Sea Scenes is designed in four movements, each depicting a different facet of sea life, through contrast in mood, texture and timbre. The work mirrors the sea-faring life, from the exhilaration of sailing the high seas, to the tragedy of lost ships and mariners, and brings into high relief the role of nature in this unfolding drama. The rich mixed sound of flute and high and low stringed instruments allows for a myriad of possibilities in terms of the sound palette, so as to reflect the changing landscape of the sea.





Caryn Block combines flute, cello, and  percussion in this chamber piece. Lasting 20 minutes through seven movements,  or “Vignettes” (as dubbed by Block), this  work utilizes a myriad of orchestration  arrangements that create variety. The  outer two and middle movements use all  three players, while movement two is a  duet for marimba and cello, movement  five is a duet for flute and cello, movement  three is a solo for the percussionist,  and movement six is a flute solo. Block  states in the notes that the piece can be  performed in its entirety or as individual  movements.

Except for the final movement, most  of the piece is at a slow or broad tempo  with descriptions given such as “Misterioso,  cantabile,  espressivo,  lyrical  and  majestically.”  Just as the movements change  texture, each movement contains fluctuating  descriptions. Disjunct melodies  and non-unison writing is very common  in this piece. All three players are treated  equally in this work, but it is difficult  to grab onto a central idea consistent  through all seven movements

The percussion requirements for the  first, third, and fourth movements include  marimba, vibraphone, crotales, suspended  cymbal, tam-tam, triangle, wood  chimes, tom-tom, bongos, and tenor  drum, using various sticks, brushes, and a  bass bow. Marimba is used in movement  two and seven

Brian  Zator for Percussion Notes Magazine - November 2009



Arizona Views II


Arizona Views II is a chamber work for flute, percussion,  and cello. Inspired by Maxfield  Parrish’s painting “Arizona,” the composer  attempts to musically depict the  beautiful grandeur of the fictitious landscape.  The piece, in general, has a Native  American influence through the various  melodies and drumming chants and lasts  15 minutes.

Each of the three movements evokes  a different character, with movement one,  “Chant/Flight,” having a prolonged and  mysterious opening that leads to a more  driving melody in the second section.  Movement two, “Rhapsody,” is labeled  “majestically” and has the main melody  played by each instrument in its own  unique way. Although the cello states the  disjunct melody in the opening, Block  overlaps the players’ thematic statements  to create a whirlwind of sound.  The third movement, “Canyon Echoes,”  is an energized close to the work with  rapid sixteenth ostinatos played by the  marimba and cello and an eighth-note- based melody line played by the flute.

Through the entire work, but especially  in the third movement, the flute  has the primary melodic material. The  percussion and cello contribute to the  atmosphere of “Arizona Views II” to  primarily add color, harmonic support,  and rhythmic interest. The percussionist  is required to play marimba, vibraphone,  crotales, suspended cymbal, tam-tam,  triangle, wood chimes, tom-tom, bongos,  and tenor drum. Various sticks, brushes,  and a bass bow are requested.

Brian  Zator for Percussion Notes Magazine - November 2009