Lois V Vierk

for six trumpets


Cirrus (1988) is a work for virtuoso trumpet players. It unfolds slowly and is directional and developmental. The work begins on one pitch in the trumpet's middle register, a held tone with crescendo and decrescendo. Very soon a punctuating 16th note is added at the top of the crescendo, and soon after that a slow glissando (played with the trumpet slide) is added to the phrase. These are the materials that are developed for the rest of the piece. Pitches are added to the phrase. The register expands as does the dynamic range. The 16th note figure is developed, first alternating between two pitches at a time and creating rhythmical phrases, and eventually becoming scalar passages. These passages get longer and longer, eventually moving up to the high register of the instrument, at the loudest and most articulated and fastest moving part of the piece, the climactic section. Then the scalar passages reverse their direction, coming down to the lowest register, where the glissando material has become faster, alternating back and forth between two tones. The scalar passages become shorter, dying out as the glissando again slows down. The work ends lyrically, reminding me of graceful cirrus clouds.

This is one of my pieces for ensembles of like-instruments from the 1980's. Some of my other works from this time are for 5 electric guitars, 18 trombones, 8 cellos, and 4 accordions. I consider each of these ensembles to be one "big instrument". In all of these pieces I used principles of what I call "exponential structure", in which elements such as time, harmonic motion, rhythmic and timbral development, sound density, etc. are controlled by exponential factors. These are not abstract constructs, but formal ideas based on the emotional thrust of the sounds and of the piece as a whole.


Recording is by Gary Trosclair, trumpet, from CD:

XI Records, XI 102 "Lois V Vierk: Simoom"

Click here to view the CD on XI Records.
Click here to view the score.
New York Times preview for the September 7, 2018 performance of Cirrus:
Classical Music: Works by Vierk, Eastman and Gibson

Sept. 7; fontmusic.org.

The music of composer Lois V Vierk builds monumental textures through the layering of glissandos, a ritualistic practice steeped in her deep study of Japanese gagaku. Ms. Vierk was once a staple of the downtown scene, but performances of her works have become less frequent since she contracted a debilitating disease in the late 1990s. 

At the New School on Friday, though, New Yorkers can hear Ms. Vierk’s rarely performed 1987 “Cirrus,” in which six trumpets create an immense collage of Doppler effects. Presented by Tilt Brass at the Festival of New Trumpet Music, which runs Sept. 5-12, the piece is part of an inventive, all-trumpet program that also features works by Julius Eastman, including the recently rediscovered “Trumpet,” as well as music by Jon Gibson and Tilt’s director, Chris McIntyre. WILLIAM ROBIN

New York Times August 31, 2018 with link to Cirrus recording, XI disc

Click here to view the score.