Boosey & Hawkes Co., the largest specialist classical music publishing company in the world, recently printed “Lament (For a Fallen Friend),” a piece composed by Robert Spittal, associate professor of music at Gonzaga University. The work adds to Spittal’s extensive list of published compositions.
“Boosey & Hawkes is the most prestigious classical music publisher in the world,” said Spittal, who began composing in his early teens and had his first piece performed before graduating from high school. “I have never met anyone who has a composition published by them, but I’ve studied a lot of composers who have, like Copland, Bernstein and Stravinsky — that's how rare it is to be picked up by them, and how surprised I am to be published by them.”
Spittal wrote “Lament” last spring during a semester-long sabbatical. The 4-minute work for wind symphony was inspired by the tragic loss of a friend and is an elegy to all those who pass from this world before their time.
The composer called the piece “distinctly American” and “dynamic,” unlike traditional funeral marches, which tend toward being stoic and placid. “The intent here is for emotion to be always present. At times the music is sorrowful, sweet, angry or violent,” he said.
While “sabbatical” may be synonymous with vacation, for some, Spittal did not relax much last spring. “I spent most of my time writing,” he said. “I was mostly just a hermit.” In addition to “Lament,” he worked on several other works, including “Scenes from ‘The Charm Offensive,’ ” influenced by his 4-year-old daughter, Lianna.
Spittal, who earned his doctorate in music from the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, has been teaching at Gonzaga since 1992. Gonzaga’s strong liberal arts program has allowed him to collaborate with other departments, and to work with students who are not music majors. As GU’s director of bands, Spittal conducts Gonzaga’s Wind Symphony and Chamber Wind Ensemble, which are made up of music majors and nonmajors alike. Both groups have performed his compositions. Additionally, Spittal wrote the soundtracks for the GU dance and theatre productions, “Weaving Our Sisters’ Voices” and “Midland Mysteries.”
Spittal began his musical career playing classical flute and jazz saxophone, which greatly influence his compositions today. “Devote yourself to an instrument,” he advised young composers. “Having performance experience makes a big difference in quality.”
For more information, contact Spittal via e-mail or at (509) 323-6736.