Cereal Bars for Solo Bass Trombone: A Review and Analytic Sampling

By Peter Fielding • September 24, 2021 • 5 min read

Cereal Bars for Bass Trombone CoverJenkins, Dan. Cereal Bars for Solo Bass Trombone. Warwick Music, Seckington, Tamworth, UK, 2020. Sheet music or digital download.

Dan Jenkins' Cereal Bars is an appealing unaccompanied bass trombone solo employing serial compositional technique with a contemporary flair. The conversational tone of the introductory notes increases the piece's accessibility, attributing musical influences that govern portions of the row that are emphasized throughout the work's 99 measures. Affirming that atonal, or rather pantonal serialized music need not follow the aesthetic conventions of the Second Viennese School, Jenkins identifies two iconic items that influenced some of his pitch decisions, helping the listener and performer chunk the materials into more bite-size audible components; namely Bernstein's West Side Story that spans melodic tritones throughout the section Furtively, "Jets and Sharks," and allusions of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 that help complete the work's row.

Donated for review by Warwick Music, the music is an excellent engraving, with thoughtful page turns and suggestions such as the subtle page numbering of page 2 and page 2a, signaling to pair these pages on a single music stand. The English and Italian style descriptors include suggested tempi and rehearsal letters that readily align with the works form. The range of the solo spans over three octaves, descending to a brief pedal E♭ (E♭1) and a sustained pedal F♯ (F♯1). The upper tessitura ascends to the F above middle C (F4), with an optional high A♭ (A♭4). While composed for the bass trombone, the eager tenor trombonist or euphonium player with a solid low register could make this work with some judicious octave shifts.

Although the use of a solitary non-transposed row for a single-line solo instrument hearkens to Ernst Krenek's 1939 Suite, Op. 84 for solo cello, Cereal Bars transcends such onerous orderings through his passages of interruptions, adding to the diversity of the solo by focusing on a more focused collection. While the piece is framed with clear and solid opening statements of the row/melody, the work explores isolated and overlapping facets of the row materials in the mid-sections before returning and experiencing a recapitulation of the opening four measures that signal both thematic and melodic closure of the piece, further reinforced with Jenkins' inclusion of an extra B♮ at the very end, to align with the work's opening.

Cereal Bars would make for a welcome addition to unaccompanied solo recital repertoire. For those wanting to learn more about Dan Jenkins and his breadth of trombone performance and music compositional output, I encourage your visiting his web site, Dan Jenkins Music. The world premiere of the work can be found on YouTube performed by Christian Jones at the British Trombone Society day at Peel Hall, University of Salford, UK.

Analytic Sampling

As 12-tone serial technique and repertoire are an infrequent topic of conversation in most trombone studios, the following depicts the composer's introductory prose to into some music notation and analytic framing to help identify significant subdivisions of the row explored through this composition. This will help those survey the landscape and offer a starting point for those wanting to dig deeper into the compositional architecture.

Figure 1a presents the opening row statement of measures one to four with corresponding pitch-class numbers, and Figure 1b shows Jenkins' segmentation of the row, as based on his introductory notes.

Opening Row Statement mm. 1-4
Figure 1a. Opening Row Statement mm. 1-4


Jenkins' segmentation of the Opening Row
Figure 1b. Jenkins' Segmentation of the Opening Row

Figure 2 provides some basic post-tonal labels and help identify features, such as the shared intervallic content of the opening and closing trichords.

Figure 2. Cereal Bars, Segmented Dyad, Trichord, and Tetrad Qualities
Pitches Pitch Classes [Normal Form] (Prime Form) Forte Class Set
B, D, C♯ E(11), 2, 1 [E,1,2] (013) 3-2
C, F, E♭, Ab 0, 5, 3, 8 [0,3,5,8] (0358) 4-26
B♭, E T(10), 4 [4, T] (06) 2-6
F♯, G, A 6, 7, 9 [6,7,9] (013) 3-2

Figure 3 charts large sections and parts of the row dominating these areas of the piece.

Figure 3. Cereal Bars, Basic Form and Row Usage
Rehearsal (mm.) Tempo Row utilization Comments
(mm. 1-12) Strong Complete row statements Row stated three times (mm. 1-4, 5-8, 9-12)
Reh. A (mm. 12-26) Leggiero, ma maestoso Primarily trichordal materials that begin and end the row Rehearsal A begins and ends with G, A, B, D, C♯, emerges from the rows opening and closing trichords (mm. 12-14, 20-21, 25-27).
Reh. B (mm. 27-50) Broad (0358) tetrachord Begins with the C, F, E♭, A♭ tetrachord.
Reh. C (mm. 50-71) Furtively, "Jets and Sharks" Tritone dyad (06) Bernstein Tritone reference mm. 50-68: 06 dyads (tritones, multiple transpositions) low F♯ repeated as a pedal point gesture in anticipation to final trichord, linking to section D (mm. 63, 64, 68, 69, 70)
Reh. D (mm. 72-83) Pensive Final trichord (013) Last independent section "ruminative yet wary"
(mm. 84-93) Legato Complete row First nine pitches of the row are stated as a false recapitulation, mimicking mm. 5-7. Smaller segments are repeated, building in volume and intensity, leading to the true recapitulation of the opening melody.
Reh E (mm. 94-99) Strident Complete row Opening melody of mm. 1-4 returns in mm. 94-97. Row is repeated in a compressed and accented form in m.98, building excitement and intensity for the end of the composition.
(m. 99) N/A N/A Ends with on a final "extra" B♮, extraneous to the row form, but matches the first note of the composition for sonic cohesion.

While these form utilization and segmentation figures can help chart the overall sections of the work and identify some of the musical materials explored in each section, they do not offer the in-depth melodic and motivic analysis that will emerge from those learning and performing the piece. I hope this charting aids your drawing connection with the acoustic architecture as you perform this solo.