The music from which this suite is drawn was commissioned for the Handcart Ensemble's winter 2008 production of Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus. Seeking to evoke a mythological, ancient world, I selected the harp and oboe for being (very distantly) related to the Kithara and Aulos, two primary instruments of the Ancient World. The trombone was chosen for its common historical, theatrical association with gods, the supernatural and the other-worldly, as well as for that instrument's own relatively direct connection to ancient brass instruments. A fortuitous intersection with a gathering of Novus Trombone Quartet in Carlisle before the opening of the play that winter made possible a scoring for trombone quartet. Thus, half of the music was scored for the harp/oboe combination, and the other for trombone quartet. The music is mostly harmonically simple and static, suitable for underscoring the wordy, weighty scenes of the play. Nevertheless, the harmonic palette and tonal shape for the piece as a whole is derived from a conflict between the common-practice interval of strength and stability, the perfect fifth, and the interval embodying the golden ratio in music (and therefore, by Ancient Greek standards, musical perfection), the major sixth. The triumph of the divine, transcendent forces (the oracular and godly calls for Oedipus's self-sacrifice and the inevitability of death) over the earthly, temporal forces (the ambitions of Creon and Polyneices, the persistent ramifications of Oedipus's past moral transgressions) is mirrored by the gradual emergence of the major sixth as the dominant and terminal interval.
Adaptation of the incidental music to a suite for trombone quartet entailed the considerable challenge of recasting oboe-harp music as four-trombone music, but it was also necessary to give the musical passages more specific shape. Nevertheless, most of the movements remain aphoristic and fragmentary in nature. Imagine these as scenes on fragments of a rediscovered Greek vase. We have been fortunate in recovering the majority of this vase, for our tableaux include many of the play's principle scenes and all of its characters. (The musicians also have the option of choosing a subset of the nine total tableaux and may therefore opt to display fewer pieces of the artifact.)