for solo tuba, euphonium or bass trombone
by Gary Lee Nelson
Verdigris was the prize winning composition in TUBA Journal, May 1985.
Click on the tuba to the
right to hear the MP3
recording of Verdigris.
I consider this a definitive performance by the late David Randolph from the University of Georgia. He made this recording in concert at Interlochen on
August 17, 1995.
Click on the tuba to the left to hear another fine performance by Phillip Black, tuba professor at Wichita State University. Verdigris was included in his faculty recital on November 13, 2002.
This piece represents a reflection on the past in a small sense. My career as a composer began at the same moment that my career as a professional tuba player came to an end in Holland in 1966. Lately, like many of my colleagues in computer music, my appetite for performance has been rekindled. "Verdigris" is the first attempt to satisfy that appetite.
The pitch and rhythmic material were worked out with the aid of a computer program which emphasized certain intervallic structures. A computer-controlled plotter was used to transfer this material to paper in a nearly conventional form of notation. The interpretive markings and extra-musical elements were added as part of the process of learning to play the piece.
The title refers to the greenish substance which results from contact between acetic acid and copper. Since many brass players prefer instruments without lacquer or plating, the green marks which appear on the instrument and on the player are strong occupational identifiers. In ancient times these copper carbonates were thought to have medicinal value and were prized as pigments for paints and dyes. The "green of Greece" was also the hallmark of fine metallic objects. The irregular blue/green tint was a clear indicator that a vessel or art object was made of copper, brass, or bronze and not some less valuable and more perishable metal.
Poets and philosophers did not miss this point either. Verdigris was used as a reference to great worth and to slow decay. It became a symbol of inevitable demise - not just of individuals - but of all things. The tuba - an instrument which is at once comic and noble - seemed a fitting vehicle for a reflection on life and death. The music fluctuates rapidly between humorous, sarcastic, angry, pompous, lyric, and a variety of other characters which are meant to represent the moods and follies of man. A short poem is fragmented and sprinkled throughout the work.
bell and bombard
silken azure crystals
[they're really blue]