Premiere: February 24, 2000, Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art
In 2000, I was approached by James Jenkins (principal tuba of the Jacksonville Symphony) with a challenging yet intriguing idea: to compose a piece for tuba and two percussion. Already an unusual combination, he furthered the challenge by indicating that I should incorporate a djembe and a doumbek, and that the piece was to be based an a couple of paintings by Alexander Calder. The commission was to be one of three presented as a collaborative effort by the Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art in partnership with the Jacksonville Symphony.
At first glance the paintings struck me as odd: a bunch of shapes floating in the air. However, upon further study an idea resonated with something I had known and felt for a long time, and that is the angle with which I chose to approach the music: that is the time at dawn and the time at dusk when one almost can’t tell the difference. There is a fleeting moment just before sunup, and just before sundown, where the lighting is almost the same, and the world seems to pause as if to say: “Let’s think about what is to come today” or “Let’s think about what has happened today.”
The piece starts that way, with soft oscillating vibes chords (between B Major and F Major – two very different keys, yet having two common notes in their chords when the 7ths are added). The tuba softly presents the opening theme, and gradually the music grows in excitement (as the day progresses) and different ideas are introduced or varied. Dusk picks up where Dawn leaves off, with the day at full height, and it gradually settles itself down to end where the piece had begun, quietly but with anticipation.
The doumbek and djembe, along with the other percussion instruments, add a great deal of excitement to the piece. They were relatively new to me at the time of its writing, but I am thrilled with sound and energy they provide.