Composer Tom Schnauber was born in Los Angeles in 1969. He completed his bachelor of music in composition and an advanced studies degree in scoring for motion pictures at the University of Southern California. On a scholarship from the German government, he then went to Berlin to study ethnomusicology as well as to continue his studies in composition. After his return to the US a year later, he did a small stint in Hollywood scoring films no one will ever see. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in composition and theory at the University of Michigan where he also earned a master of music in composition. His major teachers have included Don Crockett, Steve Hartke, Paul-Heinz Dittrich, William Albright, Michael Daugherty, Bright Sheng, Evan Chambers, and William Bolcom. Schnauber's music been performed throughout the United States and Europe. He has received commissions for orchestral, chamber, and vocal works from ensembles such as Brave New Works and the Falls Church Chamber Orchestra. In addition, his music has been performed by the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Exindigo, Prime Directive, and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. He has also written music for stage productions by Toledo University and Ann Arbor's Wild Swan Theater, including the children's musical Town Mouse and Country Mouse. He currently lives in Northfield, MN with his wife, mezzo-soprano Anne D'Oyley Adams.
Notes on "Die schwersten Fesseln" (Heaviest Chains)
This work is a five-part ensemble piece written in the spirit of the
16th-century motet. It is also an homage to a later composer, J.S. Bach.
The Cantus Firmus quotes the subject of his Kunst der Fuge, and the text
(translation: "The heaviest chains have become flower garlands.") is a
sentence with which Phillip Spitta has described the composer's handling
of canonic composition. Although all the parts are texted, this piece is
designed to be performable by a wide variety of instrumental/vocal
combinations, as were most Renaissance motets. It is also based on a
single mode (for the theoretically minded: E-Phrygian plus D-sharp) and
uses some of the compositional devices found in many of those earlier
works. It is my first real attempt at putting what I have learned from my
love of "early" music to practical use.
NOTES: "String Quartet"
A musicologist is hiking alone in the woods. In the rustling of the trees,
he hears an old tune carried on the wind from far away. He listens for a while,
then decides to find out where it's coming from. But suddenly the tune is gone,
and he is left with only the wind.
The musicologist climbs higher. At some point, he finds a dense, colorful
rock on the ground. Suspecting that there might be something of value in the
rock, he starts chipping away at it. Sure enough, he finds a perfectly tuned
Now high in the cold mountains, the musicologist stumbles into a small
ice-cave. Brushing the snow from his clothes, he looks around. Embedded in one
of the walls of the cave is a waltz, a bit distorted, but still recognizable. He
could free it and take it back with him, but why? He leaves it where it is.
Back to Quartet Concert
NOTES: Fanfare for four horns
This piece was written for the highly anticipated yet never realized
official opening of the classical CD section for The Wherehouse's
star-laden Hollywood branch on La Cienega Blvd. At the time, my job as
classical manager/buyer at this store was equivalent to what being a
waiter is for an actor: a temporary position that came dangerously close
to being permanent. The plan had been to take this gig to make ends meet
and compose volumes of "straight" music on the side (just to keep my chops
up, you understand) until my big break in the film composition industry
came a few weeks later. Well, after a year of hocking discs at this place
and observing Hollywood greatness from an unlucrative distance, I finally
got out by taking a job translating a book (ironically, about Hollywood).
Although I had made no headway in the studios, I did come away with a
hoard of free CDS and this "Fanfare for Four Horns," my one and only piece
during that time.
NOTES: "The Walrus and the Carpenter" text by Lewis Carroll.
"'You like poetry?' [asked Tweedledee]. 'Ye-es, pretty well--some poetry,' Alice said doubtfully...'What shall I repeat to her?' said Tweedledee, looking round at Tweedledumb with great solemn eyes...'The Walrus and the Carpenter is the longest,' Tweedledumb replied, giving his brother an affectionate hug." (from "Through the Looking Glass" by Lewis Carroll)
This IS a long poem, at least for a single song. The solution, then, was to turn it into a series of multiple songs with recits in between, much like the old Italian scenas. And how to deal with the tonality (in a broad sense) of the piece? Each song and recit has its own mode (octave-species) with its own rules on how to deal with tonic. And yet there are still many quirks from the Common Practice. I guess I'm old fashioned.