John Adams on Tromba Lontana
Tromba Lontana (‘distant trumpet’), was written at the request of the Houston Symphony, part of a fanfare commissioning project initiated by the composer Tobias Picker, who wrote his own well-known Old and Lost Rivers for the same series. Taking a subversive point of view on the idea of the generic loud, extrovert archetype of the fanfare, I composed a four-minute work that barely rises about mezzo piano and that features two stereophonically placed solo trumpets (to the back of the stage or on separate balconies), who intone gently insistent calls, each marked by a sustained note followed by a soft staccato tattoo. The orchestra provides a pulsing continuum of serene ticking in the pianos, harps and percussion. In the furthest background is a long, almost disembodied melody for strings that passes by almost unnoticed like nocturnal clouds.
Although Tromba Lontana was published by Boosey & Hawkes in a grouping called “2 Fanfares for orchestra,” I never intended the piece to be paired with Short Ride in a Fast Machine. They are united only in the fact that they are orchestral fanfares, but in fact it is difficult to make work in a satisfying manner in live concert. I myself have never programmed them together.