I think there’s one universal truth among composers (or, at least, as universal as it gets): space is cool. This is true of lots of other folks, too, but it’s not at all uncommon to find composers inspired by the great inky darkness and everything within it. I’ve already counted myself among them; Zero G is not my first foray into space-inspired titles. It is, however, my first time using sounds from space.
Several years ago, NASA started releasing samples and short clips on their SoundCloud account, and creatives everywhere started digging in. Not only were the sounds new, they were interesting, and begging to be put together and flipped upside down and made into something entirely different. I started playing with them, editing them, working them into something, but the piece didn’t have a purpose. I didn’t have a performer for it. The work fell into the “maybe someday” pile.
“Someday” arrived in the form of Garrett Klein, who was looking for a new, exciting piece that would function as an opener for a clinic, recital, or master class even when a good warm-up hadn’t been in the cards that morning. Inspired by his playing (and his willingness to geek out over space noises with me), I picked up where I’d left off, discovering that all those threads of a piece needed was the right trumpet part to bring them to life. Zero G is both an invitation into the unknown and a celebration of friendship, collaboration, and that fundamental truth: when we look up at the night sky, we always feel like there’s more out there to discover.
Zero G is a short work that allows the performer to improvise, taking inspiration from the tape and their own existence during each iteration. The piece comes in two forms; the first, clocking in at about 3’45”, is in exact alignment with the score. The extended cut, which runs closer to 4’15”, features additional content at the beginning of the piece. As such, measure 1 starts about thirty seconds in. I suggest the performer listens closely for the first JFK quote, in measure 3, to ensure they are in the right place when playing from the extended cut. For those just learning the piece for the first time, I’ve included two versions of each track: one performance version and one with a click track to aid in practicing.
In the standard cut, there are two opportunities for the performer to improvise: measures 55-64 and measures 94-118. This allows the performer to either introduce their own motives early on and circle back to them toward the end of the work or to incorporate two separate sections of their own making into the piece. All techniques are welcome when improvising. Mutes may also enhance a performance, but because I want the trumpeter to be able to choose their own adventure, they are not specified in the score.
Complete performance notes, including a notation guide, can be found in the score.
Zero G will be available for purchase after its world premiere in Spring 2019.