It’s Alright, Ma

It’s Alright, Ma (2’ 52”) (2016) is a musical composition for trumpet and piano. I chose this instrumentation because the trumpet is the closest instrument to me—my voice. To connect with Bob Dylan’s voice in the most intimate way, I decided to orchestrate this piece with this instrument.
It’s Alright, Ma takes two important pieces of musical material from the original Bob Dylan version: the descending folk guitar chords and the blues-folk riffs. The piano begins the piece by directly imitating these guitar chords. The trumpet then enters (at :16, measure 7, page 1) quoting the guitar riffs with an altered, slower rhythm (where I use the compositional technique called “augmentation” because the note durations are augmented).
The composition reflects my interpretation of the original Bob Dylan version because it conjures images of darkness, experiences conflict, and yet resolves in the end. Darkness appears in the piece when the piano dives into its lowest octave (at :15, measure 7, page 1) and strikes a chord of dissonant tones. By use of the piano’s sustain pedal, this image permeates throughout the piece, bleeding into the trumpet melody shining above as if it were “Darkness at the break of noon.” It’s Alright, Ma illustrates conflict by clashing major (happy-sounding) and minor (sad-sounding) scales in the trumpet and piano lines. Also, another example of conflict is the illustration of “bullets” and “toy guns that spark” (at 1:28 measure 41, page 4). The trumpet engages in warfare by imitating rapid gunfire using the technique of “double-tonguing” (striking the inside of the mouthpiece using quick alternation of syllables). This creates a cascade effect of ringing tones with the piano to depict a battle surging back and forth. Finally, the composition resolves its conflict between major and minor key by sounding a resonant G major chord (at 2:46, measure 81, page 8) as if to say “And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it.”


Special thanks to Brian Doherty for advising me on this project.

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