Betrayal, for Percussion Quartet and Wind Ensemble

An Interview with composer James Ogburn

What drew you to write this piece?

I am really excited to write a work for percussion quartet and wind ensemble.  I have written for both separately, as well as several pieces for solo and ensemble. The challenge of writing a work for multiple soloists provides opportunities to explore many new combinations. Not to mention, the percussionist’s vocabulary and medium present an excellent microcosm of the large ensemble, allowing for a different balance in the interaction between soloists and large ensemble from that to which I have become accustomed.


Why work with Up/Down?

Up/Down has really impressed me as an exciting group of talented young players. The recording they put out this year is truly exceptional for the players’ sensitivity and range of ability. This is a world class group, with whom I’m honored to collaborate.


What do you think this piece can offer that other pieces don't?

I have spent years developing my voice. I like to believe that at a certain stage in any composer’s life, their unique qualities emerge and proclaim something to the world. In my case, I offer a raw emotional experience through a complex synthesis of compositional techniques. In short, the piece will be exciting, emotionally driven, and interesting.


What are the qualities of both WE and PE that make it an interesting instrument grouping to write for?

Both groups have a wealth of color and texture from which to draw. Together, they afford a dynamic and intricate cooperation.


Can you talk a little bit about your thought process approaching the piece?

I have been thinking of this piece in terms of the exploration of traditional form through new timbral and textural combinations.


Can you tell us a little about the formal structure of the work?

The work will be in two movements, with the first as a slow passacaglia. In this movement, the ostinato line will be built around a repeating figure that undergoes internal expansion. So, with each re-initiation, it will seem as if simple repetition will follow. However, the entire ostinato will be significantly longer than the listener initially anticipates, since it will start and end with the same motion for each subset of the entire series but each subset will become longer, with the insertion of internally expanding phrases. Then, it will become apparent that the entire line (some 30 measures) is the ostinato figure. I will leave out details about the second movement’s structure for now. But, it will be a fast, explosive response to the first movement.


Why Betrayal? Is there a theme or story that you are trying to convey with the piece?

Betrayal has been in my ruminations a lot lately. I am a very honest and faithful person. I find it mysterious and sad when I encounter people who don’t live honestly.


About the Composer:

James Ogburn is a US-born composer, conductor, theorist, and educator who began his musical career as a jazz and rock guitarist, primarily as a hobby. He pursued and completed degrees in Composition & Theory at Central Washington University (B.M.), and the University of Pittsburgh (M.A. & Ph.D.). Dr. Ogburn’s music has been featured at over a dozen festivals and on orchestral season programs throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Currently, he is Assistant Professor/ Coordinator of Theory and Composition at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, GA. He moved to Columbus in 2015 with his wife, the oboist Amy Galbraith Ogburn and their two children, Barry and Zoe.

Dr. Ogburn’s works have been recorded, performed, and publicly read throughout Europe, the U.S., and Asia by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Ensemble Mosaik, red fish blue fish percussion ensemble, IonSound Project, ALIA MUSICA Pittsburgh, Flux Quartet, the Ying Quartet, the Krakow Academy Quartet, and many more.

His music has been featured in national, regional, and international festivals, including World Saxophone Congress XVI, Beijing Modern Music Festival 2013, June in Buffalo 2007, ACO/Penn Presents New Music, the Inaugural Asian Double Reed Association Conference, the Thailand International Composition Festival, the Fifth Annual Thailand Brass and Percussion Festival, the 2004 SCI National Student Conference, the Krakow Academy SME Thirty Year Anniversary Gala, and the U3 Festival.


Dr. Ogburn has been commissioned by the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, the Mahidol Wind Symphony, the Central Washington University Orchestra, Dave Eggar, Wendy Warner,  Shyen Lee, the Old Pros Trombone Choir, Danny Keasler, ALIA MUSICA Pittsburgh, Ensemble Mosaik, and numerous other performers and ensembles.