Attitudes for solo horn is a bit different from other pieces for solo horn, primarily because the composer believes that performers are intelligent and creative enough to be asked to contribute to the piece in performance. This piece gives contemporary performers a rare chance to create a unique performance. There is much pressure in the classical domain toward conformity and attempting to do it exactly the same every time, and toward honoring the ideas of everyone else — the great performers and performances, or “the composer’s intentions.”
My feeling is: don’t do it, not in this case, anyway. Let me tell you this composer’s intentions. My intention is that this piece contain opportunities for the expression and imagination of the player. Thus each movement has a window for the player’s creative powers to reign in the form of an improvised cadenza. Don’t run away yet: the process is made easier by examples and by limitations that I set: 1. Use the notes given 2. Play in the style of the piece thus far. Since many players may be trepidatious of this new creative opportunity, I would like to offer some tips to make the improvisations easier. I think that given these suggestions and the examples following, anyone capable of performing the written part of the piece can play the unwritten parts of the piece as well.
Jeffrey Agrell joined the The University of Iowa School of Music faculty as professor of horn in 2000 after a 25-year career as Associate Principal horn in the Lucerne (Switzerland) Symphony. Besides teaching horn, he currently directs the UI Horn Choir, teaches Introduction to Improvisation, and performs with the Iowa Brass Quintet, and the contemporary classical improvising ensembles Duende (horn, cello, piano), and Cerberus (horn, trumpet, tuba).
Since returning to the United States, he has been very active as a guest artist and clinician, performing and giving workshops and presentations at regional, national, and international workshops, festivals, and conferences. Outside of the university, Agrell is on the faculties of the Asian Youth Orchestra (Hong Kong) and the Kendall Betts Horn Camp and is member of the Advisory Council of the International Horn Society. He has performed and recorded with Confluence, the professional New York horn ensemble, and has performed with the New York-based Walter Thompson Soundpainting Orchestra.
Besides performing, Jeffrey Agrell has always been very interested in the creative process as evidenced in his long-time activities as an award-winning writer and composer. He began composing and arranging during his college years. Since about 1990 he has had a steady stream of commissions from professional chamber music ensembles, and has won several composition prizes. Agrell’s works have appeared on CD and have been broadcast on radio and television nationally and internationally. Many of his works have been published and performed at contests and festivals. He is a member of ASCAP and SUISA, the American and Swiss composers’ rights societies.
Most recently he has been very active in bringing new approaches to improvisation to classical musicians, giving a unique semester course in improvisation as well as clinics and workshops. He is also a Soundpainting conductor (Soundpainting is a gestural system of improvisation for groups), having studied with its inventor, Walter Thompson. Jeffrey Agrell’s recent CD is entitled Repercussions, music for horn and piano that features pieces with a unique integration of written material and spontaneous improvisation.