The “Painterly” Etudes for Tuba Alone were composed between 1988 and 1991. I was teaching tuba at a small college in West Virginia at the time and had grown tired of covering the same old material year after year. Plus, I liked solo tuba works from the moment I started working on the Persichetti Serenade when I was a teenager.
Each etude is, I guess, a miniature impression of a 20th-century painter’s work, although never a specific painting. In the manner of Elgar’s Enigma Variations or Crumb’s Makrokosmos, I have included the initials of the painters of whom I was thinking at the end of each piece. For example the first etude, “Summer Morning by a River, with a hippo,” has A.S. at the end for Arnold Schoenberg, an amateur painter for sure, but he fits my jocular purpose; the piece itself is a pun on the famously immobile “Summer Morning by a Lake” from his Five Pieces for Orchestra.
So, the pieces are whimsical. The ninth piece, “Beethovenian Rocking Horse: DADA,” is a parody of a parody, Beethoven’s parody of Mozart in the Diabelli Variations. The fourth, “March: the 4th (being a recurring nightmare),” plays with that interval that every tubist knows from Sousa.
From a technical standpoint, the tempos given are suggestions, especially in the faster pieces. So if you are comfortable playing the pieces at a slightly slower speed, please do so. In the case of No. 6, “Abstraction of Rotation,” the tubist must establish a comfortable speed for the first section. Then adjust each slower tempo down a bit more. (By the way, I give away Jackson Pollock’s name in the title. You have to figure out ATWT).
~David Williams, Dunbar, West Virginia
David Williams was born in Enon Valley, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. in 1953. He attended West Virginia University where he earned degrees in music education and music history and a doctorate in music composition. He studied composition with Thomas Canning and John Beall, conducting and arranging with Don Wilcox, musicology with Barton Hudson and Christopher Wilkinson, and orchestration with William Winstead.
Williams has composed over one hundred works including pieces for wind band, chamber ensembles, orchestra, keyboard, and liturgical functions. His most recent works include And the Marches after Twilight for concert band, Sinfonia for wind wnsemble, commissioned by the clarinetist John Weigand and premiered in Morgantown on November 18 and at Alderson-Broaddus College on November 19, All the Past is Present for the Laureate Wind Quintet, given its first performance on November 2, and the Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, commissioned by David Wright. Williams’s setting of W. H. Auden’s “Lay Your Sleeping Head My Love” for tenor, clarinet, and piano was premiered by the clarinetist Robert Turizziani (who commissioned the piece) and the tenor Michael Bresnahan at Roosevelt University, Chicago in May 2007.
Recent notable premieres include the String Quartet No. 1 by the Montclaire String Quartet in November 2005, Grotesques: Concerto for Timpani and Wind Ensemble, by Adam Mason and the University of Lethbridge Wind Orchestra (Alberta, Canada) and conductor Thomas Staples in October 2005.
Since 2003 Williams has had premier performances of Lost Tales/Imaginary Dances, commissioned by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra for the opening of the new Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston, W.V., Fearless for concert band, commissioned by a consortium of college and high school bands in the eastern U.S., the Quartet for Cellos, for Marshall University, and the Quartet for Saxophones, “Enon Valley,” commissioned by the Traverser Quartet.
Recent notable performances include Lost Tales/Imaginary Dances on the West Virginia Symphony fall tour in Ashland, Kentucky and Fairmont, Fearless by Don Wilcox and the Mushashino Wind Ensemble of Tokyo, Japan, and the Quartet for Saxophones by the Traverser Quartet at the University of Southern Mississippi.
He has twice won the West Virginia Fellowship for Music Composition (1992, 1999). In October 2004, he was one of 25 music critics from across the country awarded a fellowship to attend the first National Endowment for the Arts/Columbia Graduate School of Journalism Institute on Music Criticism in Classical Music and Opera.
David lives in Dunbar, West Virginia with his wife Joyce. He teaches elementary music in Kanawha County Schools, conducts the West Virginia Youth Symphony’s wind ensemble, and serves as the classical music critic for the CharlestonGazette. He is an avid tennis player. He can be reached at email@example.com.