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Abstract

That Dark Electric is one of a small but growing corpus of concerti for the trombone, many of which have been composed within the last century. The trombone’s relatively recent emergence as a solo instrument is due in large part to a generation of trombonists who have commissioned, performed and championed new works for the instrument that challenge preconceptions of its capabilities and limitations. The title originates from a passage of Cormac McCarthy’s All The Pretty Horses, a novel set in the American southwest. In it, two horsemen embark on a journey through the barren landscape in which the majority of the novel’s action occurs. As in many of McCarthy’s writings, the beauty of the scene is tinged by a looming danger lurking in darkness, an aesthetic paradox mirroring that of the concerto: a stunning display of virtuosity in which an uneasy tension at the possibility of failure is immanent.,That Dark Electric unleashes the microtonal capabilities of the trombone and the strange, even unsettling sounds produced by unconventional playing techniques to evoke the unpredictable soundscape of the untamed lands inhabited by so many of McCarthy’s narratives. This concerto is one large movement divided into four distinct impressions gleaned from the passage. The first two sections evoke the sense of embarking, of setting out on a journey - beginning at a slow, ambling pace and gradually growing in intensity, volume and tempo. The third section is a quiet but tense conversation between the trombone and strings. The final section is the cadenza, or an extended solo that traditionally signals the end of a concerto. In this cadenza, the soloist traverses their way through a series of possibilities set forth by the composer, from which the performer may choose their own path.

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