As a student at the Eastman School of Music, I studied composition, piano, and oboe. I was extremely fortunate when, during my sophomore year, a spot opened up in Richard Killmerʼs oboe studio and I was tapped to fill the gap: it meant not only regular lessons with Killmer, who became my most influential music teacher (of any instrument), but also regular rotations through Eastmanʼs ensembles: the orchestras, wind ensembles, new music and chamber groups.
My colleagues in the 1996 Eastman oboe studio were three great friends—Rosey, Jennet, and Julie—and when our last year came around it was decided that I would write a trio for their long-standing chamber ensemble cheekily called the Lobiki Trio. I wanted to capture something of their individual characters in the music, and so a little drama plays out in the theme, with dreamy Rosey blissfully playing her beloved long tones while mercurial Jennet flies through finger exercises, leaving fastidious Julie to attempt to maintain some sort of order and focus among the ensuing chaos.
The variations that follow this situational theme play out the acceleration conceit upon which the theme is based (there are metric modulations to quick, quicker, and then back to the original, tempi), and all of the variations use a single 13-tone melody (Roseyʼs long tones) as their source. I donʼt remember how I came up with the idea of crafting a multi-movement work out of a continuous set of variations, but Iʼve always liked this aspect of the work and have used it again (in my Duo for Violin and Piano, for example, exactly 20 years later). Of course, I knew from the beginning that Lobiki Variations would end with the two oboes and English horn intoning their lowest possible perfect fifth—the resulting interval of all three activating their respective low B keys.