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Song for Martha (grade 4)

Song for Martha was commissioned by the Northwest Iowa Bandmasters Association in celebration of their 70th anniversary and premiered by one of their high school honor bands on January 6, 2024. The piece is the fourth in a series of works that I have now composed that are all musically and personally related, honoring the people that are most important in my life. The first three of these were Song for Lyndsay (2006), Song for My Children (2013), and Song for My Parents (2019). All four works are bound together through a melodic idea that I originally wrote as an undergraduate student, a short melody which has become very meaningful to me over the years.

My sister, Martha, has always been an important part of my life. Two years older than me, we grew up playing together and, if anything, became closer in high school. In fact, we even shared an apartment for the two years of college that overlapped. I always looked up to her…and still do. She is, without doubt, one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, seemingly able to recall the most obscure information with ease and always able to make connections at which the rest of us in the family marvel. She is kind and loving and thoughtful, with a wicked sense of humor and an understanding of what’s important in life. She’s just a great person in every way.

As I thought about how to honor her musically, I kept coming back to her love of old movies. She always enjoyed them, even when we were younger, and seems to like them even more now. I remember that when we were growing up, she also loved the music and fashion from the 1930’s and 1940’s and this eventually became the inspiration for the work, which features the classic sound of a trumpet using a solotone mute with accompaniment from a banjo and string bass. Although I hadn’t intended it, the tune gradually morphed into a graceful little waltz. The form of Song for Martha is a rondo (ABACA), with the B melody created using an inversion of the original theme and the C melody created using a retrograde of the original theme. In the final A section, all three melodies occur simultaneously. More than anything else, though, my hope with this piece is to say thank you to Martha. Thanks for being my friend and support in my toughest times, thanks for making me laugh, and thanks for always being my awesome big sister.

Song for Martha
00:00 / 06:18
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