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picaresque episodes


Composed in 2011

For trombone quartet

Duration: 16:00


I. Dark March

II. Rapscallions

III. Katabasis

IV. Brash Passage


Picaresque Episodes was written at the request of John Miller, who was my supervisor in the Yale Music in Schools initiative. To me, John always seemed the quintessential trombonist: energetic, good-humored, and fun-loving. In writing this trombone quartet, I looked to John’s personality and tried to write music that expressed something of the essential nature of the trombone itself. The four movements each represent my take on a different facet of the inherent qualities of the trombone. “Dark March” is a blaring, dissonant, and relentless aural assault; it doesn’t conclude so much as it expires. “Rapscallions” shows a more impish side of the trombone, one given both to mockery and sarcasm. “Katabasis” implies a descent, especially a descent to the underworld. In this movement I attempted to demonstrate the incredible pathos and gravity of the lyrical trombone. Finally, “Brash Passage” concludes the work with a game of reckless abandon, in which all four players must navigate treacherous runs and wild dynamic contrasts at breakneck speed, all done with that irrepressible trombone spirit of fun.


On September 15, 2011, John Miller passed away in tragic circumstances. He never heard this piece, which is dedicated to him and had been so shaped by his personality. I composed Picaresque Episodes for a friend who seemed in the prime of his life, and whose boundless enthusiasm for music and music education continues to be an inspiration. It is my hope that those who knew and loved John might recognize in this music some small reflection of his humor, his infectious energy, and his wonderful spirit.



First Performance: April 12, 2012, New Music New Haven

Morse Recital Hall, Yale University, New Haven, CT

Hana Beloglavec, Benjamin Firer, Timothy Hilgert, tenor trombones;

Jeffery Arredondo, bass trombone


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