Groucho Markx Pic  Duck Soup (Bass Trombone and Piano)
                         (1994 (®2002); 9')

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                       Click to view or print bass trombone part

            Composed in 1993-94 through a Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council grant, Duck Soup was conceived as a virtuosic piece for bass trombone and piano combining elements of mystery, play, and jazz. The title, taken from the 1933 movie of the same name by the Marx Brothers, is meant to reflect the more lighthearted aspects of the work, but is also a reference to the commissioner's (trombonist Ken Knowles) passion for bird-watching, although it was not clear to me how much time he actually spent watching ducks.
            Two other avian-musical connections that I had in mind while composing were the music of Bebop jazz pioneer Charlie Parker, known as ‘the Bird,’ and the music of Olivier Messiaen, who meticulously collected, notated, and catalogued bird songs, many of which were used extensively in his music. Parker and Messiaen happen to be two of my favorite composers, and while there are no overt references to their music in Duck Soup, there is an occasional foray into a somewhat “jazzy” feel, and there are numerous times when Messiaen-like harmonic colour is hinted at.
            Duck Soup was premiered in February of 1994 by Ken Knowles and Kristina Szutor, and revised in 2002 for a SOCAN Foundation reading organized by the Canadian Music Centre.

©Clark Winslow Ross

 Duck Soup  
Performed by Ken Knowles and Kristina Szutor
[If the music doesn't begin playing automatically after a few seconds, click here]

Mm# Section Comments
1 A1 First Theme; q = 80; flowing, expansive, expressive, mysterious
4   2nd phrase; BTbn joins in
9   3rd phrase
12   Codetta of Th. 1 introduces 3plet es material (x), which becomes basis of section D below; this leads to "Thunk" sound in pno., m. 13
14 A2 Second Theme; q = 86; more energetic (tbn mel. based on 1st th.); Messiaen-like chords
25 A1´+A2´ First Theme varied + combined with Second Theme (q = 86)
31   Last Chord of section; BTbn plays into piano, which responds with another "thunk" sound
36 B1 Poco Piú Mosso (q = 92); sparser texture, nervous, dry (quirky); (quasi-development)
40 B2 Less dry; transition to...
45   'Heroic' cadence motive (y) introduced, in 3plet qs
46 C1 Strange (canard-like) Waltz (i.e., awkward, somewhat humorous)
49 C1.1 Waltz becomes more schmaltzy and somewhat more straight-ahead while still retaining a waddling quality; doesn’t last long…
53   Waltz appears to break down, so...
54 C1.2 piano attempts to resurrect it. However...
56 C1.coda it doesn't get very far; end of waltz section (cadence material for 5 mm.)
57   … cadence material re-introduces 1 bar of 3plet qs(x; see m. 12), the basis of section D
61 A2´´ 15 mm. of Th. 2 returns, var. (q = 86)
76 A2.coda/trans. Th. 2 coda (m.76), then trans. (m.78) using 3plet qs and es leading to...
80 D1 3plet qs chordal section (x; q = 92) begins with piano solo; playful character, "jazzy" (Oscar Peterson?) feel
89 D1.1 3plet qs section; b.tbn. joins in (sparse at first)
94   … continues, piano begins to go nuts (very low register)
97   'Heroic' cadence motive (y) returns, in 3plet qs
98 D2 3plet es continue; more forceful character; BTbn becomes more active with selective unison doublings
107 D2.1 3plet es continue; another variation I
115 D2.codetta Pattern breaks for codetta; becomes more 'heroic' (y motive used, extended)
119   … codetta winds down to a complete stop at m. 122 (this is the golden mean!)
123 B1´ “Quasi-development” (q = 92; sparse, nervous, etc.) section returns (varied), leads to...
128 B2 "Less dry" sect. returns, unchanged; transition to...
133   'Heroic' cadence motive (y) again, in 3plet qs
134 C1 Strange Waltz again (awkward, somewhat humorous, web-footed, etc.)
137 C1.1 ”Schmaltzier”, more straight-forward waltz again (unchanged)
141 C1.1-ext. Waltz accompaniment figure in pno extended; seems to get stuck-BTbn is silent; refuses to help out
143:4   … Pno plays sfz e chord in frustration; is fed up! (as if to say, “Hey! Pay attention!”)
144 C1.2 However, to its credit, the piano once again valiantly attempts to resurrect waltz...
145 ext. …This time, it works! Waltz IS extended; however, pno is on its own (BTbn, apparently working to rule, steadfastly refuses to participate)
153 A2" Th. 2 returns for the 3rd time, varied; q = 86
164 A1´ Th 1 returns, varied (BTbn more involved this time, so character more dramatic, less mysterious); q = 80
169   … continues with long arpeggio in pno; note the faster tempo this time (q = 92).  Extended by a couple of bars (ascending arpeggios in pno, tbn)
174 A1´+A2´ 3rd phrase (truncated) at original tempo (q = 80), morphing into end of Th 2
177 Trans’n Last bar of previous section begins a 2-bar transition into D2.2; tempo (q = 92) is faster than it appears because basic pulse is felt in 3plet qs.  (Tempo is really 3plet q = 138.)
179 D2.2 3plet qs brought back one last time; a somewhat more-chaotic, more-energetic variation
187 Coda Uses 'Heroic' motive (y) a lot; exciting character (q = 80)
195   Last chord