in wait

for trombone quartet
2013 | 10"


Commissioned by The Guidonian Hand
Commission support provided by The Jerome Fund/American Composers Forum


View the score



[coming soon]


Program Note

The trombone is my instrument, and I have long thought that the brass family has been unjustly neglected by composers, or stereotyped into fanfares, marches, and stunt-arrangements of works for other, more agile instruments that are the musical equivalent of watching an elephant do ballet: the elephant's skill is certainly impressive, but the improbability of it makes the dance itself of secondary importance, if it's noticed at all.

In my first trombone quartet, Awakening, I wanted to demonstrate that the trombone quartet can be every bit as expressive as a string quartet. The feelings and ideas expressed in that work could not, I felt, be expressed by any other instrument; the music required joy and outrage, raw physical power and monumental, totemic grandeur, in equal measure.

In keeping with my mission to demonstrate the breadth of the full expressive range of the trombone quartet, In Wait is technically and emotionally as far away from the world of Awakening as possible. If Awakening is music of strength, power, brightest day, In Wait is music of weakness, powerlessness, darkest night.

For most of the piece the trombones use different kinds of mutes, and the piece begins and ends with practice mutes, which reduce the quartet's volume to near-inaudibility. This piece is also my most extensive use of quarter-tones: the "gray" notes that fall in between the familiar black and white keys of the piano. The arc of developing strength begins in quietest microtonality, then grows in volume and intensity through chromaticism and atonality and finally erupts (without mutes) in extremely loud late-Romantic tonality.

The title refers to the moment before an ambush, when powerful and hidden forces lie "in wait” for their prey.