1 Januaries (1984)
The initial idea for ‘Januaries’, a work in which there are distinctive and disparate impressionistic qualities, was generated by some thoughts on the legend of Janus, the Roman god of doors, gates, beginnings, and endings. One perhaps cannot completely dismiss the sense that one’s birth month may be somewhat special, and the fact that the composer was born in January probably contributed to the development of the concept of the composition and the title.
More to the point would be that ‘Januaries’ is an orchestral work comprising of juxtaposed sections characterized by strongly contrasting moods to form a large, abstract musical structure. In one continuous movement, there are four major sections which are most noticeably delineated by tempo.
The first section is slow and atmospheric with illusive and fragmented motives in a three-layered texture consistently orchestrated for (1) strings, (2) percussions, and (3) winds. The second section has five sub-sections of varying character encased in a framework of ever increasing tempi. Another feature during this section are virtuosic passages for each of the orchestral family groups. The third major section if slow and atmospheric and, while recalling spatial aspects of the opening section, the mood here is ‘darker’ along with a different view of sonic space. In contrast to previous sections, there is a greater use of solo passages, which occur over a slow bass figure in canon. The last major section is an Allegro in two parts: the first primarily explores an alternation of passages minimizing accentual conditions (strings and woodwinds) with passages containing strong accents and points (brass and percussion). This particular part also is characterized by a gradual crescendo leading to the second part which is the climax of the work. The strings carry the thrust of the climax in mirror and responsorial techniques, in an extended virtuosic passage which is pulled together with a statement of a previously heard syncopated figure which ritards into a very brief and slow coda, recalling the mood which began ‘Januaries’.
Of greater importance than the above description of the sectional structure is that ‘Januaries’ unfolds with either a variations technique or a metamorphosis of several elements or ideas introduced in the opening phrases of the first section: (1) an 8/8 rhythmic structure (2) modal scalar formations and a melodic pitch-set (3) vertical and horizontal spatial relationships (4) overlapping tempi and (5) a jazz influence, which manifests itself rhythmically and harmonically on a minimal level and, most significantly, the improvisational quality of melodic lines.
Regardless of the compositional procedures and formal structure, the continuous mood shifts are the overriding and controlling expressions of ‘Januaries’. Which was completed in July 1984.
2 Auras (1988)
Although in one continuous movement, ‘Auras’ is formed by several contrasting sections, which are related primarily to one another by variations on the pitches of the opening melodic line first presented by the cello. The multiple sections are delineated by tempo, motion, and expressions, and each is essentially unrelated to the previous section. Commissioned by the Hayward (California) Chamber Players, ‘Auras’ was composed in 1988.
3 Sonaspheres 5 (1983)
‘Sonaspheres 5’, which was completed in December 1983, is the last in a series of five compositions which are related by musical materials. The five works may be played together, thus forming a complete program, or they may be performed separately. Nos. 1 and 5 are scored for flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, violin, viola, cello, piano, and two percussionists; No.2, ‘Nexus’, is for flute, viola, cello, and piano; No. 3, ‘Ensphere’, is a sextet for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion; No. 4, ‘Tromper’, is a trio for trumpet, trombone, and percussion. ‘Sonaspheres 5’ is in five major sections, delineated by tempo and extreme character change. All pitch material is drawn from a chromatic pitch-set and is developed by a variation process.
4-8 Time Messages (1988)
‘Time Messages’ was completed in June, 1988. While the title refers to the nature of the rhythmic motion and metric impulses in the individual movements, the work is built, like ‘Januaries’, on strongly contrasting moods to form a large, abstract musical structure.
‘Prelude-Fanfare’ is an ABA form, with the A sections featuring accented chords, while the B sections is characterized by a syncopated figure over and under a pedal point.
‘Distant Voices’, with all instruments muted, has two elements: (1) a timbrally modulated pedal point (trombone and tuba) and (2) a very slow and spacious ‘blues’ figure. In contrast to the first movement, the sense of pulse and accent are here virtually non-existent, with the trumpets and horn floating independently above the pedal point.
“Variants’ is a scherzo-like movement in three sections, with the first and third in various 8 meters, shifting accents and meters, while the second features the ensemble in rhythmic agreement.
The ‘Chorale’ functions on two levels: (1) the opening and primary gesture is a two-part contrapuntal phrase (horn and tuba) which occurs six times in various forms while (2) a chordal figure slowly ascends through the texture at a slower rate of speed. In additional to the illusion of two different tempi, the harmony that comprises the chordal figure is a tri-chord quite unrelated to the fourths and fifths that dominate the duo.
Opening with a tuba solo, the “Fantasy-Epilogue’ alternates ensemble sections that are characterized by repeated notes with solos for trombone and horn and a muted duo for trumpets. The movement closes with outwardly expanding harmonies in the characteristic repeated notes with accents that are drawn from the first movement
Indiana University New Music Ensemble; Indiana University Symphony Orchestra; Christopher Russell & Harvey Sollberger, conductors.
Frederick Fox was born in 1931. His early training in Detroit included lessons in saxophone with Laurence Teal and in theory and arranging with Ray McConnell. He first studed composition with Ruth Shaw Wylie at Wayne State University and, following his graduation from that institution, with Ross Lee Finney at the University of Michigan. He studied later with Bernhard Heiden at the Indiana University School of Music, where he took his masters and doctors degrees, and where he himself has taught since 1974, following a 15-year period in which he held various other faculty and foundation posts. He was also founding and first director of the New Music Ensemble at Indiana University.
Among Dr. Fox’s compositions are a ballet, several orchestral and concerted works, a good deal of chamber music for various instrumental combinations, and several choral works. He has received a number of awards for his music and three grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. His works have been performed in Europe, Latin America and Japan, as well as throughout the United States, and several have been recorded: Night Ceremonies by the Louisville Orchestra; The Descent by the Gregg Smith Singers; Annexus on Roncorp recordings; Shaking the Pumpkin (Soundpix SL-5042); and Januaries, Auras, Sonaspheres 5, and Time Messsages on The Music of Frederick Fox (IUSM-03).
Like many young American composers in the Fifties and Sixties, Fox had some experience as a jazz performer and arranger before he took up composing, and he experimented with serial writing. He found serialism to be essentially at odds with his creative outlook, but his jazz background was to find its echo in several of his most characteristic works.
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Recorded in the Musical Arts Center, Bloomington, Indiana University by students of the Jacobs School of Music IU Audio Department
Front cover design by C. David Higgins
Premastering by Konrad Strauss, Classical Digital, Inc.
Produced by David Pickett
IU New Music Ensemble - www.indiana.edu/~nme/
IU Composition Department - http://www.music.indiana.edu/departments/academic/composition/index.shtml
IU Jacobs School of Music Marketplace - http://www.iumusicmarketplace.com
All Music Copyright of the Composer
Notes Copyright © 1992, Frederick Fox
Recording Copyright ℗ 1992, The Trustees of Indiana University