Many of Opperman’s scores and parts can be found here, for free, for both study and performance. In return, we ask is that you let us know if you are planning a performance of one or more of Opperman’s works so we can add it to the Events calendar.
The Cribbage Variations (2017)
for nine instruments, approx. 19 min.
for Scott Thunes
Completed in partial fulfillment of the Ph. D. in Music Composition from Rutgers University under advisor Dr. Christopher Doll
World premiere performance by Helix! New Music Ensemble under the direction of Kynan Johns at Shindell Choral Hall, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ - November 19th, 2017
1. Of Streets and Spillikins
2. The Shuffle
3. Jazz Noize
4. Mid-December Winds
5. Babbitt Time!
6. The Deal
7. At the Grave of Anton Webern
8. The Play
9. Level Pegging
12. The 144,000
13. Knock Knock Bach
14. 75 Raindrops
15. The Show
The Cribbage Variations is a series of fifteen named variations in which the theme is the tone row from Anton Webern’s Concerto for Nine Instruments (1934), op. 24, and composed for the same nine instruments.
Simultaneously Opperman’s longest work and shortest album, the initial inspiration came from an e-mail he received from his friend, electric bass guitarist Scott Thunes, while doing research on Frank Zappa’s “Dupree’s Paradise.” While on the Zappa 1988 Broadway the Hard Way World Tour, Thunes found himself wishing Webern’s piece was longer and thus attempted to commission a piece with the same instrumentation from a bandmate. However, said bandmate was more interested in playing Cribbage on the bus than composing a piece for Thunes. Opperman read this e-mail, wondered what it would sound like if he wrote a piece that combined twelve-tone music with the numerological ideas of Cribbage, laughed, and got to work.
Due to the nature of the twelve-tone matrix and that the music would be partially generated based on the rules of a card game, Opperman set a few ground rules to govern the creation of the work:
All of the variations must be derived from Webern’s tone row from Concerto for Nine Instruments, op. 24 (making that the “theme” upon which the variations would be written.
All of the row statements must be complete (in practice, there were a few exceptions to this, most notably in “Knock Knock Bach” since fragmentation is an essential part of fugal composition).
The use of secondary tone rows or other tone rows derived from this one (excluding the 144 options in the matrix but including different hexachordal or other combinations) are strictly forbidden. For the avoidance of doubt, no purposeful attempt should be made to obfuscate the identity of the active row(s) and their position(s) in the matrix.
Pitches within the row can be repeated as long as they stay in order and that the row is eventually completed.
Whenever musically appropriate, the rhythmic information should be informed by the rules of Cribbage, with a focus on the numbers 15 and 31.
Before the premiere, Opperman sat with Make Weird Music’s Anthony Garone and talked about some of the compositional methods behind the work. (You can read a transcript of the recording here).
Composition V (2016)
for flute, clarinet, and cello, approx. 6 1/4 min.
I. Shades of Beige
II. Longest, Blackest Scarf
III. Spider Yo-Yo
IV. Dancing Mimic
V. Hooded Stick Thinker
World premiere performance by the Meraki Chamber Players at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn, NY - April 21st 2016
This work was commissioned by the Meraki Chamber Players as part of their debut season celebrating the famous paintings by Wassily Kandinski. It has five short movements, each about a specific part of Kandinski’s painting and each composed using different aleatoric methods. Once the procedures were laid out, the solutions were rolled by chance using The Musician’s Dice for the pitch information and polyhedral dice normally utilized in table-top role playing games for the rhythmic information.
“I wanted to use experimental compositional techniques to complement Kandinski’s experimental painting techniques,” says Opperman. “What was interesting to me was how much control the composer actually does have when creating music this way. The procedures I designed had a much greater impact on the overall feel of the piece than any of the individual dice rolls, and there are many, many other decisions that go into a piece besides picking notes and rhythms including dynamics, phrasing, and orchestration.”
During a luncheon with his friends in 1950, scientist Enrico Fermi asked, "Where is everybody?" in regards to the lack of evidence regarding extraterrestrial life in the universe. Science and mathematics tell us there are approximately 100 billion suns in the Milky Way Galaxy. Therefore, there should be, even at a small fraction, at least thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Earth-like planets in the galaxy capable of sustaining intelligent life. Assuming the probability that the Earth is not the most technologically advanced civilization in the galaxy and the fact that it would be possible to colonize multiple solar systems given 5 - 50 million years, even if traveling at the comparatively low rate of light speed, it is paradoxical that we have had no proven contact with interstellar civilizations. Physicist Carl Sagan, among others, have opined that one possible solution may be the tendency for advanced civilizations to destroy themselves, either through nuclear or biological annihilation, or due to climate change or other planetary calamities. However, for our purposes today, we ask not what kinds of beings these aliens would be, but what kind of music would they make?
Tales from the Bizarro World (2013)
for a capella chamber choir or small choral ensemble, approx. 6 min.
World premiere performance by Ekmeles at Rutgers University - October 26th, 2013
Loosely based on the early 60’s Tales from the Bizarro World comics created by Jerry Siegel and John Forte (and owned by DC Comics), this opera-in-miniature explores a music lesson far out in space in the square-shaped Bizarro World. “Us hate beuaty! Us love ugliness!” they declare as Bizarro-Lana learns to become the worst, and therefore the best, singer in the whole school, for which she is awarded the coveted Blue Kryptonite. Along the way are plenty of jokes that will have 20th century music history buffs laughing in their seats!
According to Opperman, “Of all the jokes in the piece, the absolute funniest is the idea that two different vocal ensembles have given incredible performances of this work. First, Ekmeles, and then C4: the Choral Composer Collective. Apparently, as off-the-wall and challenging as it is, it is also very fun to put together and sing.”
Microtonal solo work for gourd tree, a unique instrument invented by American maverick composer Harry Partch (1901 – 1974) recorded at the Harry Partch Institute under special permission from Dean Drummond as performed by Ryan McCausland. Features artwork from DC Comics artist Tony Akins (Wonder Woman, Fables, Jack of Fables).
Aphrodite Nights (2009)
for gourd tree, approx. 2 1/2 min.
World premiere performance by Chris Opperman at the
Harry Partch Institute at Montclair State University -