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Empirical Refraction

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Alex Hilliard

Alex Hilliard

Subtitle: Concerto for Tuba and Symphonic Winds

General Info

Year: 2016
Duration: c. 9:50
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Print Music Source
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $225.00   |   Score Only (print) - $45.00


1. Knowledge - 3:25
2. Faith - 2:30
3. Wisdom - 3:50


Full Score
C Piccolo
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bongos
  • Castanets
  • Chimes
  • Claves
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Gong
  • Police Whistle
  • Sleigh Bells
  • Snare Drum
  • Taiko Drums
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The journey to achieving a more enlightened self is one for the most matured, readied and humble hearts. When? Where? How? Why? The answers are all unique to our own existence as individual beings. Moving forward toward enlightenment, it then becomes our challenge to undergo a sequential process defined here as Empirical Refraction.

The work begins with a confident level of Knowledge, exuding pride and swagger above all else. The soloist, a chip planted firmly on his shoulder, rifles through rapid chains of sixteenth notes and exhibits considerable flexibility with regard to the many excited moods presented throughout the first movement. Eventually, though, things become hurried, and a position of comfort and stability quickly becomes one of reaction and uncertainty. Life reveals itself as an entity of overwhelming superiority and sends the ensemble tumbling down a steep slope. The soloist plummets to a dark, shadowy place graced only by the presence of Faith.

Lonely, yet determined, our soloist endures while the percussion ensemble supports a through-composed and distressing lament. As time progresses, the ensemble sends soloists and other small groups of instrumentalists to offer support in the way of collaboration during such arduous times. From these cooperative efforts, our soloist gathers the courage to trek through obscurity as unconditional hope provides the necessary illuminating presence. A suspenseful setting soon detaches the end of this movement from itself, and, as if one were able to pause time and spiritually withdraw from reality, allows a moment for objective reflection. This atmosphere is supported by solo oboe and an omnipotent hum manufactured by the ensemble. The movement comes to a close with the solace of an out-stretched oboe hand, only to be enveloped by the warmth of our soloist and a few instrument groups from the ensemble.

Wisdom is introduced by a refined waltz, which is then fulfilled by the soloist. Our tubist faces many encounters throughout this climb to a more informed existence, but draws justification from past encounters. This provides one with a powerful yet unassuming sense of clarity and purpose, which is demonstrated by the frequent but failed attempts by the melodic material to pull away from that of its original beginnings. When the musical material does finally reach a different place, realize that it is not of an uncontrollable nature like that of the first movement. Rather, it is more of a developed and timely transition exhibited by the soloist and the ensemble together. The cadenza is a final chance for transformation, and the ensemble chooses to rally around this assimilation in the style of a declarative fanfare shortly thereafter. From this fervor, excitement grows and drive this composition to an explosive end with the soloist reaching up to accept the simplistic joys of a newfound perspective on life.

To the soloist, it is my sincere hope that this work is not only enjoyable for you, but that it also presents you with an exercise in humility. Whether your modesty is probed by the technicality of this composition, or by the act of experiential reflection, I believe that humility is an important catalyst for one's spiritual growth. With this in mind, your interpretation will have more meaning. Without this forethought, the work is reduced to a compilation of sounds and will not translate into a genuine performance for your listeners. Therefore, if you have yet to ponder the twists and turns of your own actuality, then perhaps it is time that you should...

- Program Note from score


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Willamette University (Salem, Ore.) Wind Ensemble (John Skelton, conductor; Cameron Lantz, tuba) - 15 April 2018

Works for Winds by This Composer