Sleuth is a piece that tells a story akin to a detective mystery from decades past. The story is derived from “an intricate process of composing a simple melody.” Kramer states, “These scenes are not intended to depict any event in particular; in fact, many of the ‘cinematic’ moments resulted accidentally in the early writing stages.” Intentional or not, the opening’s “sly, wandering gestures” throw a glance into a seedy smoky bar. Funky and boppy rhythms evoke the strut of a detective adorned with brown leather. Jostling registers and shouts from piano to tuba simulate an altercation while the scalar runs depict what could be a car chase – all the while searching for that simple melody. “Traces of the tune are embedded within the searched locations, and it finally occurs in its full form in the tuba towards the end of the work,” says Kramer. What she didn’t know is that her melody brilliantly quotes a movement from Vincent Persichetti’s Serenade No. 6 for Unaccompanied Tuba. Much like those in the Hindemith Sonate, the accompaniment figures in the tuba part are supportive yet actively engaged, like that of a detective’s partner or a super-hero’s sidekick. As Justin Benavidez points out, “Kramer seems not to have made any concessions with regard to the conviction with which the tuba can hold the solo voice.” In short, Kramer effectively crafts her portrait of a “Sleuth” by binding two different voices that are similar in style, and uses register and unifying thematic elements that work together.
Composer Laura M. Kramer