Rondo Beach

[for jazz ensemble and strings]

composed for the Susquehanna University Jazz Ensemble and Orchestra in 2004: 8 minutes


Everyone loves the beach, especially composers. The ocean has inspired many musicians of diverse styles and approaches, with such notables as Claude Debussy (La Mer), Felix Mendelssohn (The Hebrides Overture), Vaughan Williams (The Sea Symphony), Phillip Glass (Einstein on the Beach), the B52s (Rock Lobster), the Coasters (Down by the Boardwalk), and Faculty Lounge (Felix the Strat) being only of a few of the numberless examples. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the beach mindset is the way in which profound and profane thoughts exist in close proximity. One minute you're focused on bikinis and frisbees, and the next minute you’re gazing at the huge expanse of water, contemplating the insignificance of man.

Rondo Beach is a tribute to the great body of beach music that western civilization has yielded so far-- complete with a few tasteful quotes here and there. This piece also features the sort of abrupt changes of mental focus that being at the beach can encourage.

For those who aren't interested in listening for quotes, one could also hear Rondo Beach as a score for a TV show—a show about a cop who cruises the beach looking for wrong-doers, while at the same time dealing with his inner demons and desires. He fantasizes that he's the star of a TV show, which he is in real life of course, but not in the show. As this music plays, he's driving down the coast; he keeps looking at himself out in the rear view mirror. He imagines that he's on TV, and that he looks cool. Of course, he is on TV, although he's not supposed to know it, and he does look cool, albeit in a geeky kind of way. Am I the only one who identifies with such a character? I doubt it.