snapshot of score of Son of the Bebop Variations

Son of The Bebop Variations

for trumpet, trombone and tape — 1992

A spin-off of a spin-off of Bebop...

After the performances of Invisible Cities in 1989, Håkan Hardenberger and Christian Lindberg asked me for a brass trio for themselves and a horn player compatriot. I went back to Bebop and mined it for material for a 15-minute piece. It’s called The Bebop Variations, but is not a conventional theme and variations: we get just a few glimpses of the theme near the beginning, and it doesn’t emerge fully fledged until the end of the piece — making it almost a set of variations in reverse. Hardenberger and Lindberg were pleased with the result, but it turned out that, due to my inexperience of writing for the instrument, I had come up with an unplayable horn part (I received a touchingly apologetic postcard from the horn player saying he couldn’t play it, when of course it was entirely my own fault).

The other two didn’t want to let it go though, and encouraged me to turn it into a piece for trumpet, trombone and tape. I realised that just making a tape of the horn part would be silly and — with the technology available to me at that time — sound pretty nasty, as well as not working for practical reasons, so it had to be completely recast. I used the same basic material, but built up the (virtual) orchestration and added a lot of percussive sounds, with various added effects, to create the final piece. The two Swedes have played this extremely challenging piece together on a number of occasions.

I also provided an encore piece in the form of Big Bo Bebop, a straight four-chorus jazz arrangement of the Bebop tune, complete with written out ‘quasi-improvised’ solos, which Hardenberger and Lindberg played after the Wigmore Hall première.

Although Hardenberger and Lindberg have successfully performed Son of the Bebop Variations a number of times, I have never been able to get a decent recording of it, so in the absence of that and just for fun, devilment, the heck of it, etc., I have made a MIDI recording of the original The Bebop Variations to give an idea of how it might have sounded if the horn part were playable (who knows, as techniques continue to develop, maybe someone might manage it some day). It’s presented below for your edification.

I have since extended the life of these variations with the chamber orchestra version, Return of the Son of the Bebop Variations.

Score extract (PDF)


Performances / broadcasts / ‘real’ recordings

Listen to MIDI version of The Bebop Variations (14:45)