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Flutey and the Beast

Instrumentation: Flute and tuba

Duration: ca. 3 minutes 45 seconds

Year composed: 2008

Place composed: Irvine, CA

Dedication: Commissioned by Jeff Mercer

Program Notes: On one evening when AJ went out to dinner with his friends Jeff and Carmen Mercer, Jeff half-joked that if AJ composed a piece for him, he would play it for his senior tuba recital at California Baptist University–better yet, write a piece for tuba and flute, and he and his wife (a flutist) could play it. AJ laughed at the idea of writing a duet for flute and tuba, but it was such a compelling challenge that he had to accept it. Trying to conceive of some inspiration that would make such a duet work musically, his best idea was a sort of “beauty and the beast” idea, with each instrument playing one of the roles. The result is a dramatic work telling a “beauty and the beast” story which should be performed in a very expressive and dramatic fashion. The tuba plays the beast, who states his gruff theme of fourths and octaves after a dramatic introduction; there are brief glimmers of the beast’s longing to be, well, not so beastly, in a tender midrange melody, but they are quickly interrupted and overtaken by the gruffness. The flute’s “beauty” character tries to interject here and there but is also interrupted, although she gets in a few echoes of the longing idea. Finally she plays her own beauty theme, by herself: much more tonal and sweet-sounding, based on ascending fourths and thirds, but is outspoken by the beast when she’s finished. The middle section is the softening of the beast, as he slowly but surely is won over by the beauty, until finally he consents to play his longing theme accompanied in harmony by the flute and even plays her theme down in his low range. The flute takes over with one last triumphant restatement of the beauty theme, with the tuba playing a bass line. The introduction returns in a slightly modified version as the conclusion.