29 August 2010

The Tuba as New Media

It is one thing to show the tuba to be capable of more than what it is asked to do in the orchestra, but it is another thing entirely to show these capabilities to be useful. No matter how great the skill of future generations of tuba players, these generations will be stifled at every turn by any musical culture which places such disproportionate emphasis on 18th and 19th century orchestral repertoire. In order for their larger contributions to be acknowledged, those contributions must be valued, and in order for them to be valued, the musical styles and idioms in which they are made must be valued as well. The task of advocating for these new musical styles is both more vital and more arduous than that of advocating for one's instrument, yet it seems increasingly clear that the latter will not be accomplished before the former. The symphony orchestra repertoire is arguably the Western musical tradition's greatest contribution, but it has not, will not, and indeed cannot be the place where the tuba finds its voice as an equal instrumental partner in the contemporary musical landscape. That landscape will be shaped by a vast array of both traditional and experimental musical media, among them myriad settings to which the tuba has far more to offer than it does to the orchestra. Of course, any instrument has the most to offer to idioms which it helps to shape from the outset, and so the more tuba players who are active as creative voices rather than passive "musical instrument operators," the more prominent place the instrument will occupy in the future of music.