This Tuba Concerto was commissioned in 2004 by tubist, Michael Fischer, and the Boise State University Symphony Orchestra. It was my fourth piece for Dr. Fischer, and is subtitled “Wars and Rumors of War”. Since I do tend to write “concept pieces”, there is some programmatic content that proceeds through the development of its underlying musical and emotional structure. Contrary to what its subtitle might suggest, this is not intended to be a political statement about war, but is rather intended to be a philosophical and even rather intimate examination of the personal effect that this type of activity has on those who participate in it.
In the first movement, imagine a young soldier in the military Reserve, being called up to serve his country. There are calls to patriotism and noble intentions, but behind that there is also something darker, more ominous, unsettled and foreboding. The soldier goes on a long journey, far away from home and arrives at a destination where he is reminded again of what is being asked of him. In this sense, the concept of war here is rather abstract, intellectual and angular, yet behind it is the unexpressed anxiety that tells us that something is amiss.
In the second movement, our hero is thinking of home, family, perhaps a wife or lover, and all things safe and warm. Here we have the concept of “peace”, but this is far from abstract and intellectual - it is filled with longing, and with the intimate and personal images that come to us each, individually, from our own human experience.
In the third movement, we are thrust into the actuality of war. The “alarm bells” are going off and there is a sense of urgency and danger, where nothing is safe and every nerve ending must stay alert to the driving force of the situation around us. There is a pause in the battle, where our protagonist has the opportunity to look around and see the carnage and the waste around him. This is not the glory that he envisioned, not what he thought it would be like, nor what he was told. It is real, and it creates a sick and empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. Before he has time to deal with this or to resolve it for himself, the alarm bells are going off again and he is back in the battle, fighting for his own survival.
Completely aside from the programmatic or philosophical content of the piece, one will also notice a certain influence from the Russian symphonic composers. I have always been very fond of the Russian composers and there is a certain musical “homage” paid to that influence in my life in each of the movements – consecutively to Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Shostakovitch.