Tromba Lontana

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Tromba Lontana
by John Adams
EnglishDistant trumpet
Genre Minimalism
Form Fanfare
Occasion150th anniversary of Texan independence
Commissioned by Houston Symphony
Composed1986 (1986)
PerformedApril 4, 1986 (1986-04-04): Jones Hall, Houston

Tromba Lontana (lit. "distant trumpet") is an orchestral fanfare written by the American minimalist composer John Adams in 1986. The work was commissioned by the Houston Symphony in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Texas's declaration of independence from Mexico. It was given its world premiere by the Houston Symphony under the conductor Sergiu Comissiona in on April 4, 1986. The piece contains the voices of two trumpets that are separated from the orchestra, and from each other, usually performing in the balconies of the concert hall. [1] [2]

A fanfare is a short musical flourish that is typically played by trumpets or other brass instruments, often accompanied by percussion. It is a "brief improvised introduction to an instrumental performance". A fanfare has also been defined as "a musical announcement played on brass instruments before the arrival of an important person", such as heralding the entrance of a monarch. Historically, fanfares were usually played by trumpet players, as the trumpet was associated with royalty. Bugles are also mentioned. The melody notes of a fanfare are often based around the major triad, often using "[h]eroic dotted rhythms".

Minimal music is a form of art music that employs limited or minimal musical materials. In the Western art music tradition, the American composers La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass are credited with being among the first to develop compositional techniques that exploit a minimal approach. It originated in the New York Downtown scene of the 1960s and was initially viewed as a form of experimental music called the New York Hypnotic School. As an aesthetic, it is marked by a non-narrative, non-teleological, and non-representational conception of a work in progress, and represents a new approach to the activity of listening to music by focusing on the internal processes of the music, which lack goals or motion toward those goals. Prominent features of the technique include consonant harmony, hypnotic rhythmic pulses or steady drones, stasis or gradual transformation, and often reiteration of musical phrases or smaller units such as figures, motifs, and cells. It may include features such as additive process and phase shifting. Phase shifting leads to what has been termed phase music. Minimal compositions that rely heavily on process techniques that follow strict rules are usually described as process music.

John Adams (composer) American composer

John Coolidge Adams is an American composer, clarinetist, and conductor of classical music and opera, with strong roots in minimalism.


Tromba Lontana appears in the Modern Era soundtrack of Civilization IV, along with several other pieces by Adams.[ citation needed ]

<i>Civilization IV</i> turn-based strategy computer game

Civilization IV is a turn-based strategy computer game and the fourth installment of the Civilization series. It was designed by Soren Johnson under the direction of Sid Meier and his video game development studio Firaxis Games. It was preceded by Civilization III and followed by Civilization V, and it was released in North America, Europe, and Australia, between October 25 and November 4, 2005.

A typical performance lasts just over four minutes. [3]

Program note

John Adams wrote of the piece

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 above 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. [1]

Tobias Picker American composer

Tobias Picker is an American composer noted for his numerous works for the stage, including several operas, in addition to works for orchestra and chamber orchestra.

Old and Lost Rivers is a short orchestral composition by the American composer Tobias Picker. The work was commissioned to commemorate the sesquicentenary of Texas by the Houston Symphony, for which Picker had recently been appointed composer-in-residence. The work was composed in the spring of 1986 and was given its world premiere by the Houston Symphony under the conductor Sergiu Comissiona in Jones Hall, Houston on May 9, 1986. Later that year, Picker adapted the work for solo piano as a birthday present for the pianist Ursula Oppens; this rendition of the work was premiered by Oppens at Carnegie Hall in March 1987. The piece is dedicated to Stephen M. Aechternacht and is one of Picker's most frequently performed compositions.


The work is scored for an orchestra comprising two flutes (both doubling piccolo), two oboes, two clarinets, four horns, two trumpets, percussion (glockenspiel, crotales, suspended cymbal and vibraphone), piano, harp, and strings. [1]

Flute musical instrument of the woodwind family

The flute is a family of musical instruments in the woodwind group. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel–Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge-blown aerophones. A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, flautist, flutist or, less commonly, fluter or flutenist.

Piccolo small musical instrument of the flute family

The piccolo is a half-size flute, and a member of the woodwind family of musical instruments. The modern piccolo has most of the same fingerings as its larger sibling, the standard transverse flute, but the sound it produces is an octave higher than written. This gave rise to the name ottavino, which the instrument is called in the scores of Italian composers. It is also called flauto piccolo or flautino.

Oboe musical instrument of the woodwind family

Oboes belong to the classification of double reed woodwind instruments. Oboes are usually made of wood, but there are also oboes made of synthetic materials. The most common oboe plays in the treble or soprano range. A soprano oboe measures roughly 65 cm long, with metal keys, a conical bore and a flared bell. Sound is produced by blowing into the reed at a sufficient air pressure, causing it to vibrate with the air column. The distinctive tone is versatile and has been described as "bright". When the word oboe is used alone, it is generally taken to mean the treble instrument rather than other instruments of the family, such as the bass oboe, the cor anglais, or oboe d'amore

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  1. 1 2 3 Adams, John (1985). Tromba Lontana: Program Note by the Composer. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  2. "Adams Tromba Lontana; Violin Concerto; (The) Wound Dresser". Gramophone . July 2002. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  3. CD: BBCLJ30012