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Loam: concerto for tuba and percussion ensemble

for tuba + piano + 5 percussion

Commissioned by Robert McCormick and the McCormick Percussion Group

Duration: ca. 28'00"

Premiere: November 5, 2017 | Tampa, FL | Joseph Alvarez (tuba) and the McCormick Percussion Group | Robert McCormick, conductor

Program Notes

“Loam,” by definition, is simply fertile soil. Much of the concerto is textural in order to convey the idea of loam, or soil, literally. My intent was for the music to sound as if the earth is being tilled in some instances, and this is represented most notably at the very beginning of the work with the interplay between the tuba and piano, and again throughout Movement 3.

The general concept of loam also fits into an ongoing interest of mine in conveying the ideas of Wabi-Sabi through my work. Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese worldview that values impermanence, imperfection, and transience; all living things are imperfect, and they are in a constant state of either becoming or decaying. This concept is central to my overall body of work, but especially important to Loam.

Metaphorically, the general arc of the work is that as living beings we are born from the earth and then return to it. In this way, the piece could be viewed as a musical meditation on death. There is a duality throughout the concerto between reality and un-reality (or, perhaps, living and dead), which is often represented by the switching between low-pitched textures and high-pitched textures. In other words, lower-sounding music metaphorically represents something being grounded, and higher-sounding music is more dream-like.

The percussion ensemble also takes part in the underlying theme of un-reality by serving as a timbral augmentation of the solo tuba throughout the work. Often the percussion plays off of what the tuba does: this happens as simply as with pitch (i.e., the tuba will play a note or melody and it is echoed in the keyboard percussion), but also happens in more complex ways related to musical texture and gesture. In many cases the percussion ensemble represents a “dreamlike”and/or “ghostlike” version of the solo part.  

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