When initially asked to write a piece for tuba-euphonium quartet, I knew that I wanted to focus on two concepts. First, I wanted to explore the vast, yet frequently overlooked, technical and musical capabilities of these instruments. Secondly, I wanted to address the working-class roles that these instruments often occupy in large ensembles and how this character trait could be brought to life in a chamber setting.
Work songs have been an important part of many cultures around the world. In most societies, these songs encouraged efficiency and quality of work. However, in the harsh conditions of American plantations, these songs took on a different kind of importance. The steady unison rhythms kept any one person from being singled out and severely punished for working slower than the rest. This practice continued on into the middle of the 20th Century in the slave labor conditions of southern U.S. prisons. This piece is musically inspired by two prison work songs recorded by John and Alan Lomax in the 1940’s titled Rosie and Take This Hammer.