Posted By : Jeff Moore
Piece Title : Chameleon Music
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Dificulty Rating :
Level : Senior / Graduate
Composer / Arranger : Welcher, Dan (1948-)
Composer / Arranger Details:

Writing in High Fidelity in 1974, critic Royal S. Brown said "on the basis of this work (Concerto for Flute and Orchestra), I would say that Welcher is one of the most promising American composers I have ever heard". Born in Rochester, New York, in 1948, composer-conductor Dan Welcher has been fulfilling that promise ever since, gradually creating a body of compositions in almost every imaginable genre including opera, concerto, symphony, vocal literature, piano solos, and various kinds of chamber music. With over one hundred works to his credit, Welcher is one of the most-played composers of his generation.

Dan Welcher first trained as a pianist and bassoonist, earning degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. He joined the Louisville Orchestra as its Principal Bassoonist in 1972, and remained there until 1978, concurrently teaching composition and theory at the University of Louisville. He joined the Artist Faculty of the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 1976, teaching bassoon and composition, and remained there for fourteen years. He accepted a position on the faculty at the University of Texas in 1978, creating the New Music Ensemble there and serving as Assistant Conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra from 1980 to 1990. It was in Texas that his career as a conductor began to flourish, and he has led the premieres of more than 120 new works since 1980. He now holds the Lee Hage Jamail Regents Professorship in Composition at the School of Music at UT/Austin, teaching Composition and serving as Director of the New Music Ensemble.

Dan Welcher has won numerous awards and prizes from institutions such as the Guggenheim Foundation (a Fellowship in 1997), National Endowment for the Arts, The Reader`s Digest/Lila Wallace Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, The Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy, the Ligurian Study Center in Bogliasco, Italy, the American Music Center, and ASCAP. His orchestral music has been performed by more than fifty orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, and the Atlanta Symphony. He lives in Bastrop, Texas, and travels widely to conduct and to teach.

Total Number of Percussionists Required :10+ Percussionist(s)
Categories : Tuned Percussion / Percussion Ensemble
Instrument / Discipline : Large Percussion Ensemble
Instrumentation : 4 1/3 Octave Marimba (Low A) (x3) / Auto Spring / Bamboo Wind Chimes / Bell Tree / Brake Drum (x5) / Castanets / Ceramic Wind Chimes / Cricket(s) (x2) / Crotales (Set of) (x2) / Flexitone / Glass Wind Chimes / Glockenspiel (x3) / Small Gong (x2) / Tam-Tam / Tom (x4) / Triangle (x2) / Windchimes / Xylophone (x2)
Range of Instruments / Number of Drums : NA
Written for / Commissioned by : OU Percussion Ensemble
Permission given for Youtube video by Copyright holder
and Youtube Channel Owner. Recorded / Provided by:
 OU Percussion Press
Accompanied :N/A
Publisher :OU Percussion Press
Publishers Website
Publisher Details :

In 1977 the OU Percussion Orchestra and Ensemble embarked on a project that developed into a national model for the encouragement and development of new music for percussion ensemble.  The OU Percussion Ensemble Commissioning Series regularly engages outstanding composers to write works for this medium.  The Commissioning Series is responsible for the creation of some of today`s staples in the percussion ensemble repertoire.

     In 1983 the University of Oklahoma funded the establishment of the OU Percussion Press, a non-profit extension of the percussion area. Through the Percussion Press, the commissioning series compositions plus other works expressly written for the OU Percussion Orchestra and Ensembles have been made available for purchase and performance by the world`s leading percussion ensembles. The Percussion Press` catalog numbers more than 50 works, all published in a non-profit venture as a service to the profession.

Year Composed / Copyright Date :1987 /  1988
Duration :11Minutes
No. of Mallets/Sticks Required :Various
Special Needs :The following instruments can be shared among players:Crotales (Player 1/2); Glockenspiel (Player 1/3); Toms (Player 4/6); Brake Drums (Player 5/6); Tam-tam (Player 5/6); Crotales (Player 7/8); Vibraphone (Player 8/9)
Sheet Music Available From      Check to see if in stock
Programme Notes / Performance Details :

Chameleon Music, composed for ten percussionists by Dan Welcher, is based on a short story by Truman Capote, entitled "Music for Chameleons." Welcher writes:

"More a vignette about a person and a place than an actual story, the piece described a visit by Capote to Martinique, and the home of a woman there. She lives on the edge of the jungle, and had on her terrace a grand piano that had been played by a number of famous visitors. The music she played for Capote was Mozart, and the result of the little recital was the inspiration for my Piece. It seemed that the little lizards living nearby had become accustomed to her playing and had grown to be quite discerning in their taste. The composer they responded most to was Mozart whenever she would play a sonata of his, the chameleons came out in droves from the jungle. They would sneak tentatively forward at first, then (emboldened by Wolfgang?) come right up to lie at her feet while she played. When she finished, she`d stamp her feet on the tiles, and the lizards would `scatter, like the shower of sparks from an exploding star.`

"The music describes this scene, but more than that. It attempts to show in a rather abstract fashion how music Mozart`s music, specifically can cast a spell over otherwise uncivilized beings. The piece has four subtitled sections: `The Jungle at Night,` `The Chameleon Circle,` `The Spell,` and `The Retreat.`

In the first section, marimbas provide a chordal curtain of sound, with four kinds of wind chimes adding a scent of the tropics. After the atmosphere of the place has been established, the second section proceeds immediately. `The Chameleon Circle` presents the cast of characters, in the form of three different motives (played on xylophone, glockenspiel, and bass marimba respectively). These could be thought of as some of the chameleons waiting at the edge of the jungle but they carry within themselves the seeds of the music of their `favorite composer.` In the ensuing passage, the tempo picks up and we hear these characters growing bolder. When the tempo slows again, we are in "The Spell." No fewer than four Mozart sonatas are quoted: K. 279, K. 281, K. 330, and K. 332. Elements of the melodic turns in these fragments seem somehow familiar, and in fact we`ve just heard them slightly disguised in `The Chameleon Circle.` As the Mozart music overlaps and combines in ways in which Mozart never intended (but which, I think, he might have approved...) the night is filled with charmed animals, crickets, and of course, chameleons. At the height of their reverie, though, there is a stamping of feet a scattering of tiny legs and the sounds of the jungle at night return, with the barest echoes of Mozart still lingering in the breeze."

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