George Lewis – Oraculum (2016) for trombone solo
Bruce Collings, trombone
Janet Sinica, video
Daniel Seitz, sound design
Lockdown Tape #9 presents a commission for trombone player Bruce Collings: Oraculum by George Lewis. Premiered at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2016, the solo work portrays the notion of the trombone as the ultimate voice or cryptic word of the oracle in the composer’s imagination. On the blog, Bruce Collings talks about Lewis’ striking techniques and his perspective on the solo piece.
“For those of you who know George Lewis, he needs no introduction. For those who don’t; he started his musical career as a trombone player after graduating from Yale with a degree in Philosophy in 1974. With his first recordings shortly thereafter he started to change the musical world, taking trombone technique to new, hitherto unimaginable places. In addition to his solo work probably most notable is his collaboration with Anthony Braxton.
When I first heard recordings of George’s playing years ago I thought, “are you kidding me, how does he do that?” I can’t think of any other trombone player who has had that effect on me, not to that degree. Some players are on such a high level that you are in awe of their technique, but it’s still obvious what they’re doing. But with George, I sometimes had no idea what he was doing.
George, though, is much more than a trombone player. He is a composer, author, professor at Columbia University and so much more that I can hardly keep track. When I had the choice of picking a composer to write a new solo work for me, I immediately thought of George and was overjoyed when Musikfabrik offered him the commission.
“Oraculum” means something like “a declaration of the gods or a prophecy from an oracle”. I think of it as a series of short speeches or tiny stories each told by a different person maybe in a different language or dialect. It is full of some of the techniques that George has used while improvising. Some of them I didn’t know how to play so George would send me short videos of himself demonstrating them for me. The only mute used is a rubber plunger from the hardware store which can modulate the speech-like character of the trombone. Oraculum never stays on one idea for very long, changing directions at will, making it a wild and crazy ride.”