The Solo Tuba Music of Rogert Jager-Part 3 by Kenyon Wilson
Reflections for Solo Tuba and Piano
In March of 1983, R. Winston Morris and Robert Jager toured Japan at the invitation of the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. This tour included a recording session that produced the compact disc entitled Robert Jager & Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, which includes his Concerto for Bass Tuba and Concert Band with Morris as soloist. Upon their return to the United States, Morris and Jager collaborated once again to produce an additional tuba solo; Reflections for tuba and piano. At the time, Morris held an office in the Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association and was able to offer Jager a commission from the organization to compose a lyrical work for tuba and piano.1 Jager “wanted to have something that was slow… [and] very lyrical, and yet, … had a little show-off section in the middle.”2 They agreed that it would be a piece playable by advanced high school students and young university musicians.
Since the goal was a composition aimed at younger performers, Morris believes that little discussion of performance issues is needed since they are addressed satisfactorily by Jager’s markings in the music. Certainly a contrast between the A and B sections is necessary, and he suggests the performer “just take off and go ‘ninety miles an hour’ [in the middle section] and offer a real good contrast [of tempo].3 The most important factor, however, is that the tubist have a musical plan for the phrasing and other interpretive factors of the piece. This is not something that Morris would dictate to his own students, as he explains:
When I work with students on these things I just make suggestions about certain ways to interpret these things. And I really love it… when someone comes in… and you can tell they have really thought musically what they want to do with the piece. And they do a few different things: they stick in a rubato or whatever that’s not on the page.4
The title of the work. Reflections, was chosen by the composer to represent the ternary form of the piece. In addition, analysis shows that Jager employed motivic and accompanimental elements that express the title as well. The opening A section of the ternary form is set in a moderate tempo in compound meter and comprises the opening twenty-eight bars. Following a three-bar transition, the B section begins in measure thirty-two. This interior section is in a contrasting faster tempo and includes compound, composite, and simple meters. Measures seventyfive through seventy-seven contain a transition back to the A section. The final A section begins in bar seventyeight and continues to the end of the piece.
In keeping with the title, Jager not only employs ternary form, but also chooses to mirror the outer sections of the piece (Example 1). The opening A section contains two subsections: the first consists of measures one through ten and the second consists of measures eleven through twenty-four. Measure twenty-five begins a four-bar varied repetition of the first subsection material which ends in the transition to the B section. In the return of the A section material in measure seventy-eight, the subsections are reversed. The second subsection is heard first and is a literal repeat of measures eleven through twenty-four with the exception of the initial bass note. Jager continues the mirroring by ending with the first subsection material; this final subsection of the work – measures ninety-two to the end – begins with a literal repeat of measures twenty-five through twentyeight. This is followed by a repeat of measures seven through ten, although Jager rescores the piano’s final six bass-clef notes from measure ten as the tuba part in measure ninety-nine. Jager adds two measures of new material to end the composition.
Another unifying aspect of Reflections is Jager’s reuse of the transitional material. As explained above, Jager employs the same three-measure passage in measures twenty-nine through thirty-one and measures seventy-five through seventyseven. This transitional material is based on the material of the B section. The only difference between the two transitions is that one contains an accelerando and the other contains a ritardando, respectively connecting the different tempi of the major sections. In addition, the transition in the middle of the B section is based on the other transitions, although modified to be for piano alone. Thus, not only does Jager mirror the main sections of the composition, i.e., ABA’, but he also mirrors the transitional passages with the outer transitions identical to each other – except for the tempo markings, which are opposites – and the inner one a variation of the other two. Whereas the outer sections illustrate the title by mirroring thg form of each other, the inner section employs concurrent rent inversions to achieve its reflection.
Although there are several occurrences of the right and left hands simultaneously mirroring each other in the piano part,5 the longest example is a passage in measures sixty-five through sixty-eight, in which the piano assumes a melodic role (Example 2). Jager also employs a similar technique between the tuba and piano parts, most notably from the anacrusis to measure seventy-one through measure seventy-two, in which both hands of the piano part move in octaves, echoing the solo part in contrary motion (Example 3).
Although Reflections is unified through the use of formal and compositional elements that relate to the title, additional elements not related to the title serve the purpose of unifying the A, B, and A sections as well. Jager’s treatment of meter is one of these elements. The outer sections are in compound meter and the inner section is mostly in simple meter, thus providing contrast between the sections. However, Jager includes compound elements within the B section, including seven measures in a compound meter6 and three measures in a composite meter.7 Furthermore, in this section he includes compound elements within the simple meters. This is most evident at the beginning of the B section before the tuba enters, measures thirty-two through thirty five (Example 4).
As Jager remarks, “the show-off section had to be in some way related to the outer section. It had to have the same kind of almost angst, rather than happy release.”8 That “angst” manifests itself in the harmonic and rhythmic language that Jager employs throughout the piece. Jager was “very much involved with Bartokian theory and principles”9 while writing Reflections, which explains his considerable use of fourths. Although the key signature is F major and the left hand initially conforms to the key in a traditional manner, each of the first two measures contains a chord consisting of superimposed perfect fourths on the second beat. Jager resolves the chord later in each measure by opening one of the fourths up to a perfect fifth (Example 5). The resulting chord is tertian, but the tension of the F-G major second is main tained. Jager also avoids the expected voice leading by displacing the second chord by an octave.
Jager’s treatment of voice leading also has a Bartokian influence, as demonstrated in measures three through five (Example 6). This chord progression evolves through the use of common tones and stepwise motion. Each chord retains three of the four pitches of its predecessor, although not necessarily in the same octave. Measures fifteen and sixteen contain a similar treatment, in which each threenote chord retains two of the pitches of the preceding chord. This evolution of chords also manifests itself in other places in a way that further reinforces the title. In measures eleven and twelve, for example, the chord evolves one note at a time, expanding outward like ripples in a lake (Example 7). Jager considers this twomeasure idea to be a “mirror” effect,10 and he uses it numerous times in both the outer and inner sections as a unifying element.11
For the final chord, Jager maintains the character of the piece by avoiding a triadic ending. Jager explains, “One of my pet peeves is somebody who will do an atonal work, quartal work, polytonal – anything that is away from the triad – and then ends on a pure triad.'”^ The final chord, although it is voiced as stacked thirds, is a quartal chord based on B-flat with an omitted A-flat: B-flat, E-flat, Dflat, and G-flat. The final sixteenth note of the piano part adds a percussive fourth below the initial root of the chord. This results in a quartal chord based on F, which provides tonal closure to the piece, since it began in F.
Except for the final sixteenth note of the piano part, the final chord is vertically symmetrical. An inversion of the intervals – perfect fourth/minor seventh/perfect fourth – produces the same chord (Example 8). Thus, the final chord is a musical snapshot of the form of the piece and one last reference to the title.
1 R. Winston Morris, interview by author, Tape recording, Cookeville, Tennessee, 19 November 2000.
2 Robert Jager, interview by author. Tape recording, Cookeville, Tennessee, 20 November 2000.
3 Morris, interview, 19 November 2000.
5The right and left hands of the piano part mirror each other with contrary motiPn in mm. 34-35, 47, 49, 65-68, and 74.
6 Measures 42, 45, 47, 49, 51, 54, and 56.
7 Measures 35, 52, and 53.
8 Jager, interview, 20 November 2000.
11 This two-measure idea is found in mm. 11-12, 13-14, 14-15, 17-18, 18-19, 23- 24, 42-43, 45-46, 56-57, 78-79, 80-81, 81-82, 84-85, 85-86, and 90-91. Jager, interview, 20 November 2000.
All excerpts from Reflections are ©1983 Neil A. Kjos Music Co. Used with permission 2000.
About the Author…
Dr. Kenyon Wilson is the Principal Tubist with the Augusta Symphony 1 Orchestra, Georgia, U.S.A. For the Fall Semester 2002, he is serving as a Fulbright Lecturer at the Baku Music Academy in Azerbaijan.
For more information about Robert Jiiger and his music, visit the composer’s web site at: http://www.rjager.com