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    Tubas, Tubists, and Composers: a mixed-methodological approach to performer- and composer-instrument relationships

    Adler-McKean, Jack (2023) Tubas, Tubists, and Composers: a mixed-methodological approach to performer- and composer-instrument relationships. Doctoral thesis (PhD), The Royal Northern College of Music in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    This thesis assesses, through self-reflective practice, how the instruments of the tuba family have functioned as interfaces between composers and performers from the earliest records to the present day. A lack of knowledge surrounding the instruments and their capabilities and limitations has persisted since they were first employed by composers in the late seventeenth century, which suggests that study is needed from alternative perspectives to analysis of interpersonal artistic practices. As such, the methodologies which are employed are based upon a performer’s perspective on organology and acoustics, and examine the nature of the instruments themselves, and how they can be most effectively interacted with by performers and composers. A history of tuba family performance practice provides evidence as to which instruments historical composers would have encountered, and shows the organological development of these instruments, how individual composers’ relationships with the tuba family developed over their careers, how specific performance practices emerged by the early twentieth century, and how today’s practices emerged over the course of the later twentieth century. In light of these findings, resources are presented, which have been developed through performance-based experience, in order to deepen critical practice methods for engaging with historical repertoire, and to establish and cultivate performer- and composer-tuba relationships into the future. Audio-visual recordings comprise of collections of orchestral repertoire examples which are performed using thirteen representative historical instruments, as well as comparative recordings made with a selection of six instruments commonly employed today. A guidebook to the instrument, annexed to this thesis, explains how the codification of the contemporary tuba can facilitate future composer-performer relationships, demonstrated via recordings of score excerpts, and four new pieces for solo tuba, which present the benefits provided by the existence of such a guidebook, and show the importance of establishing and maintaining dialogues between performers and composers.

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