A Game of Chants (1981)
duration ca. 2'20"
Instrumentation: trombone solo
A Game of Chants is based on two orders of the number 1-4 written by George Rochberg to encourage another student to think more effectively of the texture of a string quartet. When that student brought in a short assignment to Richard Wernick's class, Wernick spotted the numbers and, without knowing their original context, said "That's an idea!" and proceeded to assign us to compose a piece using those numbers. As a trombonist, I thought of slide positions and overtones, and further based rhythmic patterns on them.
These independently operating series originally raised in my mind the image of a ball bouncing around freely in a roulette wheel. Further consideration of the use of separate series for pitch and rhythm reminded me of the practice of talea and color in the medieval isorhythmic motet, and led me to think of prayer wheels spinning independently. The limited number of pitches, giving the piece a somewhat chant-like quality, reinforced this impression. Combining these two images gave me the title: A Game of Chants.