The problem with writing for solo tuba is the instrument’s stigma as a buffoon. Its role in the traditional orchestra has typically been that of a bass doubler, an oom-pah peddler, and a rester. Only in special circumstances does the Tuba receive significant solo work in the orchestra; perhaps more frequently (and that’s not saying much) in the band. Brass quintet? Oom-Pah and the occasional melody in clever transcriptions.
A sizable chunk of the solo literature is transcriptions of other works and many “cute” pieces that highlight the buffoonery of the tuba. There are a few “serious” pieces as well.
TubaSuite is all of these. In five movements, I have shamelessly exploited the tuba as a bass instrument. Rather than emphasizing the oom-pah cliche, I focused on other ideas from baroque continuo lines to the popular undulating techno bass. I did not completely throw lyric melody to the curb, however. I gave some to the tuba.
This is a suite, but not entirely of dances. Each movement contrasts almost completely with the others, although the work is cyclic as motives and thematic ideas return in all movements. At times, the audience may wish to bob their heads as if they were a collective slave to the rhythm. This is acceptable. There are moments throughout the piece which are intended to be musically funny. These moments are not intended to make fun of or belittle the tuba in any way. At these moments, the audience is encouraged to laugh. If the audience feels compelled to sob uncontrollably, it is only the fault of the performer.
The five movements are as follows:
1. To begin with…
5. Full Circle (…repeat and fade)
TubaSuite was composed for Charles Guy mostly during the summer of 2003.
“An impressive and rewarding unaccompanied work”
Philip Sinder referring to TubaSuite in Guide to the Tuba Repertoire: The New Tuba Source Book ©2006 Indiana University Press.