Extra(ordinarily) Fancy

Extra(ordinarily) Fancy: Concerto for Two Oboes (2019)
Duration: 10′
1-2(soloists)-1-1, 2-1-1, 2 perc, harpsichord, strings.
Commissioned by the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra.
Dedicated to Robert Walker and Laura Arganbright.

During the Baroque era the double oboe concerto was somewhat of a genre, especially among Italian composers. Alessandro Marcello wrote two, Antonio Vivaldi wrote four, and Tomaso Albinoni—who seemed really taken by oboe—wrote eight. Over the last few years, I too have grown to adore the instrument. In fact, I’ve become such an admirer of the oboe and other double reed instruments that in 2017 I wrote a piece for double reed sextet called Extra Fancy. The sextet is an exploration of “extra fancy” techniques that these instruments can produce, particularly multiphonics. Multiphonics are produced when the performer uses a technically incorrect fingering to create a distorted, complex sound with two or more pitches. Multiphonics can sound bizarre (if not foul) to some listeners, but I’ve always found them to be enchanting and, for lack of a better term, misunderstood.

Though the pieces don’t share any musical material, I think of Extra(ordinarily) Fancy as a bigger and better sequel to the sextet. In addition to similarly exploring the melodic potential of various multiphonics, the concerto also works as a whimsical exploration of duality; while one oboist is focused on sounding ordinarily fancy, the other oboist is determined to prove the extra fancy virtues of multiphonics. After a short Vivaldi-esque introduction that establishes the main melodic ideas of the piece, the oboists go at it. They mock each other, squawk at each other, and even talk over each other. The orchestra observes and joins in as the oboists continually bicker back and forth, all culminating in a reconciliation where the once-hesitant oboist learns (and even enthusiastically performs) a few multiphonics alongside the other oboist.

This piece was commissioned in 2019 by the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra and is dedicated to oboists Robert Walker and Laura Arganbright.