Wake for K.G.

Complete Work Title: 

Wake for K.G. — a ritual for brass and percussion

Performance Medium: 

5 brass instruments (horns, flügelhorns, euphoniums, tubas, ad libitum) and 3 percussion (snare drums, bass drums, tam-tams)




in memoriam Kenneth Gaburo (1926-1993)

Date Composed: 

February 1993

Performance Information: 
  • The score utilizes graphic notation throughout.
  • Brass players are to use practice mutes, plungers, towels, cloths, or some combination of these to attain the most diffuse, unfocused, and distant sound possible; as a result, the pitch/intonation of each instrument is affected in erratic ways.
  • The work may also be played by a larger brass complement, by assigning multiple performers to each part.

Performance/Broadcast History: 
  • 15 March 1994; Morehead State University (Morehead, KY) — MSU New Music Festival

    MSU Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble; Earle Louder, conductor

  • 2 March 1993; University of North Texas (Denton, TX)

    Nova Ensemble; Joseph Klein, conductor

Program Notes: 

Wake for K.G. was composed in February of 1993 as a memorial response to the recent death of composer Kenneth Gaburo. The work is in five sections, each divided into subunits of irregularly alternating long and short sections based upon proportions derived from the Morse Code pattern for K-E-N-N-E-T-H G-A-B-U-R-O. These nested sections are not defined by clear thematic or gestural contrasts, but rather by subtle fluctuations in timbre and texture within the five brass instruments. Except for these gradual and continuous transformations, the brass instruments create an essentially static field of sound based upon the five pitches derived from the composer's name (kEnnEtH GABuro, = E B G A Bb). The rapid tattoos in the snare drums, which delineate the five sections (corresponding to the syllables in the composer's name), are derived from Morse Code transcriptions of the composer's birth and death dates, and continual knells in the tam-tams correspond with each of the thirteen letters of his name. The repeated rhythmic patterns in the bass drums that continue throughout the work are based upon the same Morse Code patterns that determine the structure of the entire work (the composer's name being divided between the two drums, which play in different tempi). The result is a sonic ritual celebrating the passage from life to death.

Wake for K.G. was first performed by the Nova Ensemble at the University of North Texas on 2 March 1993.