20 July 2014

MFA Graduation Recital Program Notes (vii):
Program Notes

Unidisciplinarity: “Toward a New Isolation”
Solo (that is, “unaccompanied”) tuba performance doesn’t have much of a history, at least not in comparison to the more highly developed instrumental traditions inherited by so many of our colleagues in the orchestra and the jazz band. The first question to ask before setting out to build one, then, is whether one can be built at all, an uncomfortable question for tuba players to ponder since it forces us to stare our inadequacies squarely in the face, and ultimately, if we are at all serious about the matter, to take inventory of them: to distinguish the real from the imagined, the technical from the conceptual, occasionally even the social, the cultural, or the political from all of these and from each other; but most importantly of all, to distinguish weaknesses which truly belong to the instrument from those which live inside of us.

Performing this exercise for myself, it becomes quite clear that the relative youth of the instrument (the modern tuba is less than 200 years old), the role for which it was explicitly designed (a decisively accompanimental one), and its very real and numerous technical limitations do not begin to explain the underdevelopment of its identity in musical styles and settings which postdate its advent. Unaccompanied solo performance in particular is a discipline which tends to coax out precisely these well-worn excuses, all while raising more immediate questions of physical endurance and sonic contrast, concerns which are otherwise so frequently and customarily mitigated by ensemble textures. I have assembled and prepared this program under the assumption that there is in fact hope for musically effective unaccompanied, unwired solo tuba performance, even though I was and still am to some extent unsure of what it might look like. This has been, for lack of a better term, an experiment, albeit in a somewhat more limited sense than we tend to use that word at this institution, and it would be worth explaining what exactly prompted me, uncharacteristically, to commit myself to a project with such an uncertain outcome.

As performer, composer and listener alike, polyphony has been and remains my primary interest, and it is this predilection which kept me for a time from seriously considering a thorough investigation of unaccompanied performance. My taste for polyphony remains strong, but it has also become difficult not to see it as a form of dependence (i.e. in my case as a player of a monophonic instrument, on assemblages of other monophonic musicians, each with their own tastes, schedules, egos, and other complications). In this social sense, live polyphony, it might be said, requires either consensus or domination in order to be realized, and has in this capacity found itself the target of deconstructionist critique, notably by Christopher Small in his widely read book Musicking:
The act of musicking establishes in the place where it is happening a set of relationships, and it is in those relationships that the meaning of the act lies. They are to be found not only between those organized sounds which are conventionally thought of as being the stuff of musical meaning but also between the people who are taking part, in whatever capacity, in the performance; and they model, or stand as metaphor for, ideal relationships as the participants in the performance imagine them to be... (Small, 1998: 13)
I myself have collaborated with very few musicians who claimed (or could claim) to be idealizing human relationships in their work, but it certainly has become clear to me that many collaborators I have sought out over the years who come from musical traditions where collectivism and co-composition are quite a bit more prevalent than they have historically been in the classical tradition have, notwithstanding my music’s clear aesthetic indebtedness to their own traditions, indeed found in it a model of authoritarian domination under which they find themselves subordinated simply by virtue of the substantial through-composed content my music typically contains and the traditional technical grounding and discipline required to realize it. Such it is that having been brought up on polyphony in the home as well as the classroom as a social allegory for working together, I eagerly entered the postmodern professional music world only to find that the allegory was understood in precisely the opposite manner by a great many of its inhabitants, including several upon whose talents it seemed the thoughtful realization of my life’s work depended.

This has been a difficult and occasionally bitter experience, but one which has attuned me to a more tangible political reality of my polyphonic endeavors than that of unspoken domination, namely my own dependence on others (sometimes many others) just to be able to make music. It is that burden from which solo playing offers complete escape, and indeed, it is thoughts of just such an escape which have been the earliest and strongest motivations for the present project.

Admittedly, this manner of allowing social considerations to dictate artistic directions is something I myself have never missed an opportunity to critically deconstruct; indeed, it is far too convenient for writers such as Small to simply overlook the tyranny of groupthink which social theories of art enable and enforce, thereby merely trading one form of “domination” for another. It must be said that with the present solo project, I am for the first time in my musical life submitting to this distinctively contemporary brand of soft repression and surrendering a degree of artistic self-determination to the ineluctable thrust of the society I inhabit. Concurrently, then, polyphony becomes a personal act of resistance against these dynamics, not because I believe it models more ideal social relationships, but because so many material conditions now militate against its thoughtful realization, its vestigial existence representing, in my opinion, an unacceptably severe aesthetic impoverishment.

Abandoning this cause, even for a short period, in direct acquiescence to the same material conditions I have grown so accustomed to working against, represents a compromise I have always been loathe to make, an issue which will haunt this project as long as I pursue it. And yet, had I not in this single instance given in, I would never have discovered the redeeming value here, which is the tremendous opportunity for musical growth inherent in addressing the substantial technical and conceptual challenges of putting on a full-length solo tuba concert. It is indeed a greater challenge in both of those respects than any I have previously imposed on myself, and one which offers to make me better at everything I do, an unusually powerful solution to the twenty- and thirty-something doldrums during which musicians tend to quietly abandon métiers rather than sharpen new ones. That is as close to reconciling the two projects as I can get without also admitting that working alone does in my case more often than not, “model, or stand as metaphor for, ideal relationships as the participant[s] in the performance imagine[s] them to be” far more so than working in groups ever has or could. As those who know me will agree, it doesn’t take postmodern deconstruction to see that my personality and my aesthetic have always been somewhat at odds in that way; but I suppose that is another story for another time.

For me, there is also solace here in the opportunity to chase the new, even if it is merely “new-to-you,” so to speak. When your instrument has become a dubious luxury item not least for the very musical culture which once spawned it out of perceived necessity, any questions that still need answering are important questions and work that needs doing is important work. Indeed, the more complete self-determination of the solo endeavor is a kind of autonomy not typically granted to monophonic musicians, nor even truly considered available to us in many traditions. In jazz especially, rhythm sections tend to control the logistics and economics of a scene to much the same extent as they control the texture and groove of the music itself; and in the classical realm, one would be hard-pressed to assemble an evening’s worth of unaccompanied tuba music from all which exists, and to do so with any taste whatsoever would be more or less impossible.

Who knows, then, what kind of constructive havoc tubists and other monophonic musicians might wreak on these traditions by rightfully claiming this degree of self-determination for ourselves and our work? The thought is exciting enough to me to bear pursuing even at the temporary expense of the aforementioned prior obligations. I present the program detailed below as a broad exploration of possible directions this project might take.

Prelude/Postlude (Kac)
As the skill in which I have invested the most relative to what is generally expected of a tuba player, improvisation was bound to be the centerpiece of my solo identity, just as it is in much of my other work. Yet for any musician who has worked within the peculiar anti-tradition to which the labels “Improvised Music” and/or “Free Jazz” are most commonly applied, a certain paralyzing dialectic between preparation and spontaneity has a way of setting in any time process is consciously considered, as it must be here. In some corners of this community, learning on the job, so to speak, is nothing less than a tradition, naivete is valued above virtually all else, and refinement, including that which in inheres in the act of performing itself, is the Devil’s spawn. At the opposite extreme, the insistence that a thorough foundation in traditional techniques and pre-composed structure is the essential prerequisite for any valid free playing has been a part of this dialogue from the outset, if largely (but by no means exclusively) as a gesture of conservative hostility.

Having worked extensively (and, I might add, happily) over the years with militants from both ends of this spectrum, I have found it to be a highly polarized one. As a harborer of split sympathies, conservatives find me a bit of a loose cannon (a rather high compliment, I think) while the naivists identify me immediately and intensely as an academic product (less complimentary but, strictly speaking, a fact). My aspiration, of course, is to have it both ways, no easier socially than it is musically, and if solo playing eliminates the former obstacle entirely, it merely magnifies the latter proportionately. In anticipation of tonight’s maiden voyage, I have erred somewhat toward the side of preparation at the expense of spontaneity; that is, towards the conservative viewpoint given above more so than the naivist one. From the outset, I have found solo improvisation to be a fundamentally different skill from those which I have developed previously, and yet the extensiveness of that prior training dictates that there is little hope of my debut as a solo improvisor being truly naive. There is something to be said here, as elsewhere in art, for avoiding the middle ground, and yet, taking the mean between my classical training and ensemble improvisation experience on one hand and my near-complete inexperience with solo performance on the other, I fear this is precisely where I am bound to start. I take solace, though, in knowing that while naivete is bounded and irrecoverable, refinement is more scalable, and that I certainly have models for such a process in many of my previous pursuits.

Such it is that I might arrive through reason at much the same conclusion as through taste, and that is to say that my own Improvised Music aesthetic is one which strongly favors traditional techniques as foundations on which to expand, keeping in mind that subverting my classical training has proven far easier than the process of developing it. I feel I can play with an airy sound any time I want by playing out of the side of my mouth, or throw the intonation of the instrument out of whack by engaging the fifth valve and attempting to use the other four as if nothing had changed. These are two techniques among many, I might add, that I have very much discovered and developed “on the job” in improvising ensembles. Meanwhile, the classical tone I've spent thousands of hours polishing nonetheless becomes completely inaccessible without ideal cycles of daily maintenance and well-timed rest, a proper diet, and a good night’s sleep. To be sure, specificity of concept is a consideration here: the pursuit of very particular airy tones or off-kilter temperaments would entail much more work and undoubtedly prove much more elusive than the versions I utilize; it remains confounding to me even so that traditional technique continues to be a greater challenge in spite of my disproportionate investment in it. In order to have it available at all, even as one option among many, thus seems to me to be inherently a matter of refinement, and no one immersed in that process can legitimately claim to be making music the naive way.

Needless to say that the deconstructionist liberation theology of Improvised Music is at times quite disinclined to take this sort of perspective at face value. It is of course true that I have been subjected to the ravings of many a classical purist, endured quite a bit of their brand of formalized training, and gone to great lengths to jump through the hoops they have laid out for me. This experience has undoubtedly shaped my perspective, but I feel secure in saying that it has not closed me off to the many other possibilities. That I have pursued validation at the hands of the academic establishment is no less the effect than the cause of my predilection for traditional tone production, and while the classical method remains my default setting, I can say with a reasonable degree of confidence that this reflects a choice I have made for myself rather than one that my teachers and training have made for me, even if my sparing use of alternatives might innocently suggest the opposite. And it is certainly my hope that this polemic might fade into the past in the manner of so many before it, rendered petty and irrelevant by new generations of musicians who find great value and inspiration, as I do, in both aesthetics. Only then can we collectively make good on the idealism of the era which spawned this music, a time when, as many who were there have remarked, anything seemed possible.

Having said all of that, it seems to me that there is in fact little unique or essential about many common extended brass techniques and also that this is entirely predictable given the painstaking design and construction of these instruments for entirely different purposes. No matter how fluent, personal, or expressive the removal of the pitch grid barrier enables the music to be, fighting the instrument for a sound it was not designed to make can be tremendously inhibiting, and further, the tendency to accept a sound as essential simply because it is available is, I think, a significant danger for players of instruments whose traditional sound palette is as comparatively limited as is that of the brass family. If anyone out there reading this just adores the sound of the mouthpiece hitting the bell, I’m afraid we probably don't have much in common, and until I have witnessed an improvising percussionist traipse out on stage wielding an old trombone bell and mouthpiece, I will continue to claim the artistic high ground. I appeal to percussion as an archetype because percussionists are far more likely to be tinkerers, collectors, and experimenters when it comes to finding just the right sound, whereas brass players are more likely to seek an instrument that suits their traditional needs, to only then investigate what else it might be able to do, and to accept the results rather more uncritically.

There is no such thing as too thorough an investigation of the capabilities of one’s primary instrument, and also no such thing as too high a threshold of taste in sorting out which of these capabilities ultimately earn their way into the music. Similarly, if one is going to put up with the tuba and the various quotidian inconveniences and social stigmata that come with it, it must be in exchange for something that only the tuba can provide, and where the tuba ceases to provide, one must look elsewhere before uncritically accepting an approximation. It is not for nothing that multi-instrumentalism has historically been such an important part of Improvised Music, most notably through so many first- and second-wave members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), whose work represents at once equally fierce commitments to autodidactic multi-instrumentalism and traditional virtuosity on a primary Western instrument (see Lewis, 2008). Such work speaks to the realization by many great masters that the need for an expanded sound palette is the need to find just the right sounds, not merely to accept what is possible with whatever one happens to be holding. Here, however, one encounters yet further questions of essentialism, namely of that which is essential to one’s own identity as a musician and citizen, and for the moment, I feel there is more to be gained in both the short and long term from exhausting the possibilities on the instrument which has given me my voice.

Encounters II (Kraft)
Composer William Kraft writes:
Encounters II was written for Roger Bobo in December 1966 and was premiered at the “Encounters” concert series in Pasadena in 1967.

The first thing Roger and I did was spend a day together, during which we engaged in a creative interplay of ideas and exploration of the instrument's possibilities. The resultant work was, as Roger described it in the liner notes of his second recording of the piece, “higher, lower, faster [probably louder or softer] than any previous work” for tuba.

From the multitude of techniques that evolved, I chose those which I felt were best suited for a piece that was basically expressive along relatively traditional lines. Certain exploratory techniques were eliminated to suit the aesthetics of the piece–an aesthetic in which I wanted to show the truly musical possibilities of the instrument without delving into effects for their own sake.

I wanted the challenge of writing a set of variations for a solo instrument which would create the illusion of accompanying itself, by using various dynamic levels, varying pitch registrations, and especially by using the voice while playing. Much of what resulted was due to Roger Bobo's remarkable virtuosity as well as his creative intelligence. (Bird, ed. 1994: 63-4)
Nearly a half-century later, Encounters II, in my opinion, remains something of an anomaly, and in the best sense of that term: if no longer literally the most extreme work in the standard tuba repertoire, it remains one of the most technically challenging overall; more anomalous yet, though, is its firm place in this repertoire in spite of these challenges, and, moreover, in spite of its high modernist idiom. Some resentment at this state of affairs is palpable, tuba culture being as it is generally a bit on the conservative side, but it is decidedly a minority view, which, at the risk of coming off as backhanded, I would say speaks as strongly as anything to what Mr. Kraft has accomplished musically with this piece.

What qualities allow a high modernist unaccompanied tuba solo to endure? Commendable unity of harmonic language, sophisticated yet audible motivic development, and well-proportioned form all play a part. But most significantly, in my opinion, Kraft ventures to the extreme outer limits of playability without writing a note that is not also highly idiomatic for the instrument, and in doing so, lights the way out of tone-deaf instrumental advocacy and towards an identity for the instrument rooted in its own music-historical epoch. The question arises of what can be played, but what should be played is never in doubt.

I have spoken above to the untenability of a complete recital program drawn from the standard unaccompanied tuba repertoire. Such a thing has, of course, been attempted, and I would venture that Encounters II has more often than not appeared on these programs. This is admirable on one hand and profoundly unfair the other, and thus it is my hope that a prominent place on a more varied program might serve to better highlight those qualities of this piece which have made it the most unlikely of recital warhorses. In turn, it seemed obvious to me from the start that the standard repertoire needed to somehow be represented in the project I was embarking upon, and equally obvious which member of this repertoire was most up to the task.

Suite in G Major for Solo Cello:
Minuets I and II (Bach)

In improvisational technique, the relationship between preparation and performance is muddier than with physical playing technique. There is no “reinforcement” of good habits to which one slowly acclimates and eventually ceases to be conscious of; the only “good” habit is the one you can turn on and off at will. Even so, there are ways that improvisors can purposefully enable certain possibilities and disable others based on their aesthetic, and I would argue for understanding this process as a technique of sorts, albeit one dealing more with probabilities than assurances.

If improvisational technique is defined as the ability to control what one plays, then this is not only a matter of real-time decision making and technical proficiency. It also has to do with what might be called weighting of exposure. The so-called “exposure effect,” whereby that which is heard the most comes over time to be preferred, is a real phenomenon for which there exists extensive laboratory documentation. Further, “studies using subliminal or unattended stimuli produce more robust exposure effects than studies that don’t use these techniques,” meaning that “the exposure effect is most apparent when the slower (cortical) brain is taken out of the loop – that is, when conscious mental processing is disrupted or distracted.” (Huron, 2006: 133) Practice time, then, is also listening time, or, as it might be better put, hearing time, for it could be argued on account of this evidence that instrumental practice, entailing as it does a division of the player’s attention between technical, musical, and environmental stimuli, is if anything more likely to beget the exposure effect than focused listening as an audience member. It is therefore incumbent upon the developing improvisor (that is, upon every improvisor) to exercise the will in deciding what material to practice and how much to practice it. You are what you play, and in direct proportion to how much you play it.

This is why I haven’t earnestly practiced scales or scale patterns since high school, and though in the interim I have failed to convince very many teachers or colleagues of the logic behind this choice, I can at least point to any number of compliments for the “freshness” of my ideas as a jazz improvisor as anecdotal validation. The point too easily lost here, however, is that there are virtually endless licks, etudes, vocalises, orchestral excerpts, Coltrane solos, Bach movements, Hendrix riffs, and on and on that are available to us should we need to address the purely technical challenges posed by scales. By privileging the bare scales themselves over all of this “real” music in the manner traditional brass pedagogy dictates we should, we greatly impoverish our creative voices via the exposure effect, regardless of what we might achieve technically. Such results are on display even among many of the more distinguished contemporary jazz artists, a fact to which I became attuned at an early age and which rather directly begot my early and intense desire not to play that way.

This is what I mean, then, when I say that it is crucial to understand the process of choosing and weighting influences as a matter of technique in the sense that one’s degree of control can be quantified, if not only in one's own mind: the same way I might choose how long to spend on long tones or lip slurs each day based on a dynamic understanding of my current conditioning needs, I might choose to invest heavily in certain musical material if I feel that my frame of mind and/or upcoming obligations demand it. Intent becomes a yardstick against which outcomes are measured, inevitably so in terms of moment-to-moment technical accuracy, but also less rigidly and more fruitfully in the more general terms of conceptual realization. The difference, then, in aesthetic between this kind of improvised music and pre-composed music is slight, and the reason for choosing improvisation over composition becomes less about “freedom” per se than it does about achieving (more like enforcing) a certain frame of creative mind driven by the urgency of real time, ostensibly because one deems the potential results to be (a) somehow perceptibly (if not necessarily radically) different, and (b) worth the trouble.


A few years ago, it occurred to me that someone of my background and predilections really should be able to improvise in the style of Bach, and also that I might find such a pursuit fulfilling and useful. When I tried it and found that I couldn't come close, I had to ask myself a tough question: how could it be that a strong internalization of the style nearly from birth (thanks, Dad), years of compulsory music theory study built largely around Bach's practice (not-so-thanks, U of MN), and a relatively high degree of proficiency as a jazz improvisor did not add up to the ability to extemporize over simple Baroque and Classical structures?

When I first got serious about improvising, it was entirely through the lens of jazz. Despite being at the outset much more fluent and experienced in classical music, no classical composer, conductor, or teacher I had ever encountered had so much as uttered the word “improvise,” and so it was that a wall was constructed between my two musical worlds. I have yet to succeed in tearing this wall down completely in my own work and I often wonder if I ever will. It certainly has not been entirely to my detriment that I never fell into the trap of trying to be classically perfect in my jazz solos, an important lesson to which the bulk of aspiring jazz players who come from a classical music background seem to be oblivious. On the other hand, the freedom to play with abandon that is so essential to most jazz styles has a way of creating and concealing myriad technical deficiencies which must then be painstakingly isolated in order to be overcome, and such it is, I think, that the challenge of improvisation in classical styles, which at one point I would have found more intimidating, in fact pales in comparison to that of improvisation with classical technique, if indeed I can be permitted to separate the two for the sake of making this point.

If this is not necessarily the only mode in which I desire to operate as a jazz player, there nevertheless could be no better conditioning, physical and mental alike, for becoming the kind of jazz player I have always aspired to be. Incidentally, I really like the music of Bach, too, I have long sought a way into doing it justice on the instrument that I happen to play, and I am positive that playing it exactly as written is not that way, no less on account of Herr Bach’s background than my own. I see glorious opportunities for creative anachronism in treating Bach movements as structures for improvisation the way jazz players treat songforms. Understand, though, that I am most decidedly not talking about playing Bach compositions in a jazz style, but rather subjecting them to the procedure to which jazz players subject standard material. This concept has two primary aspects which I find compelling:
(1) Embellishment can go far beyond traditional Baroque ornamentation to include wholesale melodic invention within the harmonic and metrical structures of the material.

(2) It is possible to extrapolate greatly from the written material, up to and including the introduction of non-normative stylistic elements, without necessarily sacrificing the larger sense of stylistic authority.
It is the second of these points which I believe demonstrates what classical musicians can best learn from the jazz tradition: that even within a comparatively conservative instrumental stylism, reordering stock licks does not have to mean reordering them the same way as everyone else with the same delivery in the same musical contexts; indeed, even the most narrowly-focused jazz stylists who address these issues in a unique and constructive way tend to become valued by the larger jazz community as both contributors and collaborators while those who fail to achieve this generally do not.

There remain, of course, some infamously rigid stylistic factions in the jazz world, but in general, individuality is in fact a component of authenticity in this tradition; to oppose the two concepts or even to speak of them separately verges on non-sensical to the jazz thinker. Players like Cannonball Adderley and Phil Woods stand as models of authenticity in the post-Parker continuum even though they play lots of things that Parker would never have played. The same could of course be said of Brahms as a post-Beethovenian or of Ligeti's relationship to Bartok, but to apply the analogy to lineages of classical performers would necessitate splitting hairs, since not only have the worlds of creation and re-creation grown increasingly apart in this tradition, but as many have critically pointed out, abstractions rather than specifics tend to serve as the models after which performers and composers alike construct instrumental identities.

And so, rather than simply cataloguing a bunch of things that Bach did and limiting ourselves to that material when we improvise, what if we permit ourselves to extrapolate? To take anomalous harmonic events precipitated the counterpoint and make them central? To seek our own voice within Bach’s style the way Adderley sought his within that of Parker or Lee Morgan within that of Clifford Brown? Of course, no judgment on whether any given non-normative material “fits” within an historical style can be considered absolute, but we might at least accept the challenge and see where it leads us. The conception of authenticity as slavish re-creation is an evasion of this question, not an answer to it.

In pursuit of these ideals, I anticipated that a severe limitation of material would be necessary, and soon settled on this pair of Minuets as an ideal starting point for this project. It is well-documented that master improvisers the world over generally exert true mastery over a relatively small amount of material (Moore, 1993: 65), and there also are not more than a handful of solo Bach movements which are technically realistic for brass players. Fortunately, the structural possibilities present with just this pair are fascinating: one may play both as written before improvising on either; the first may be stated and embellished before moving on to the second; the second may be played in the relative instead of parallel minor, or its two halves may each be played in one of these keys and then the other, which sounds surprisingly smooth; and free cadenzas as introductions, interludes and finales may be added at will. I have experimented with all of these devices and settled on a relatively fixed structure for tonight's performance. When it comes to nitty-gritty, moment-to-moment concerns, I have found it particularly fruitful to isolate individual phrases and come up with as many traditional embellishments as possible before attempting a whole-cloth improvisation. This provides a starter vocabulary for navigating the given phrase, and also burns it into one’s mind in just the way that is necessary to really “own” it once the training wheels come off.

Too many of today’s classically trained musicians will tell you that these are highly specialized skills, that this is a lovely, maybe even compelling, musical life to lead, but that it is neither essential nor realistic given the more central demands of orchestral and chamber performance. The truth is that this degree of improvisational technique and sophistication, if not necessarily in precisely this form, was a near-universal skill among professional musicians in the European classical tradition well into the nineteenth century. Anti-elitist as we all might aspire to be these days, it is difficult to argue against the historical interpretation that the decline of improvisation in classical music was a direct consequence of the music’s emergence into the public sphere, precipitated by the rise of the free market and the bourgeoisie. In order to become salable, music had to become accessible, not only aesthetically but also technically. Indeed, learning to improvise in any style involves assuming a degree of vulnerability that is the very antithesis of bourgeois comfort; hence, it is easy to see why in today's hyper-bourgeoisified classical music culture, every possible excuse will be appealed to (except, of course, for history) in order to locate classical improvisation beyond the pale.

In light of that last remark, I would offer in closing that improvisation, as intimidating as it can be at the outset, is nonetheless the discipline of musical performance which more than any other can be subtly tailored to highlight one’s strengths and cover one’s weaknesses. That much of the actual music Bach put to paper is difficult-to-impossible for wind and brass players to adapt does not necessarily mean that his style, taken as a grand abstraction, is necessarily so impossible for us to assimilate as monophonic improvisors; this path is, in any case, both more attractive and more accessible than either strict reproduction or careless pastiche ever could be. What many will see fit to point out here is that it remains impossible is to improve upon Bach. I agree, of course, but that is hardly a compelling argument against taking what he has to offer us and molding it into something more personal. In that sense, all I am really doing here is playing to my strengths, and thus finding a way into music which never really loved me back until now.

Composition with Advanced Technology (Kac)
When composers speak of the challenges of “large-scale forms,” they are likely referring not only to durational but also orchestrational scale, as well as to the relationship between the two. Depending on how it is deployed, the sonic variety afforded by large forces can add interest to a lengthy piece or obliterate the unity of a shorter one. An unaccompanied solo concert on a monophonic instrument, meanwhile, lies at an extreme corner of this plot, pairing as it does maximum duration with minimum orchestration. This in large part explains the difficulty of such concerts for performer and audience alike, and similarly, the rarity with which this challenge is embraced and met by players of monophonic instruments.

Upon being told of my plans for a solo recital, the first question from many classmates was which brand of loop pedals I would be purchasing. As a distinctly outside observer on the varied world of electro-acoustic music, it seemed obvious to me from the start that a foray into live electronics, while firmly entrenched on my agenda, would not be the first step but in fact the final one. I have a strong desire to meet the challenges of monophonic solo playing head-on, first and foremost in pursuit of the aforementioned sharpening of skills which promises to substantially impact everything else I do, but also because I have no desire or intention to venture into live electronics without being completely secure that the technology is serving artistic needs and not merely covering up technical or conceptual deficiencies. (I also worry, half-seriously, about what I might do in a power outage.)

Nonetheless, I have included on tonight's program a selection of fixed media electro-acoustic music which represents a different kind of landmark for me as a composer. This music, the first I have presented publicly which was composed specifically for electronic media, is comprised exclusively of pre-recorded tuba digitally manipulated in the Audacity computer program. Audacity is a free, open-source program of limited scope, and so the otherwise-arbitrary title is an ironic reference to a component of the MFA Performer-Composer curriculum which I have, in fact, previously fulfilled in a slightly more rigorous manner. To a musician of my background, however, the possibilities inherent in the whole world of electro-acoustic music are overwhelming, and though the limitations of free software and a single sound source may seem unduly strict, they are in fact, I have found, barely strict enough to provide focus and suggest directions. The notion of “recycling” my solo performances by using the recordings as source material for subsequent electro-acoustic works is also an appealing one. So stay tuned.

Standard Jazz Tune (TBD)
It is in keeping with both the spirit of the early jazz tradition and also one of its more infamous practical demands that I have elected not to choose which standard tune I will perform in this slot until the moment itself arrives. Any audience member who finds the selection obscure, unrecognizable, or both is entitled to a refund for the full price of admission.

Delta City Blues (Brecker)
More or less from the outset of my interest in playing post-bop jazz on tuba, the tenor saxophone has served as my near-exclusive model for “front line” horn playing, and nearly all of the significant transcription study I have done has been of tenor solos. Among that material, no other performance on the instrument has ever, to me at least, so immediately suggested adaptation to the tuba than this selection from Michael Brecker's 1998 album Two Blocks from the Edge. Brecker’s facility, time feel, and more than anything, his clarity are more or less unattainable ideals for a tubist in this style, but in thus shooting for the moon, I hope at least to land among the stars.

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