Performing Tamusuza’s Okukoowoola Kw’Ekkondeere

The sounds of the vuvuzela (see the great post on this topic from Horn Matters) emanating from our living room television got me thinking about Justinian Tamusuza’s Okukoowoola Kw’Ekkondeere (Horn Call), a piece I performed a while back at the 2009 Southeast Horn Workshop at Western Carolina University.  Tamusuza is a Ugandan composer, and this piece for solo horn was premiered in 2006 by Adam Lesnick at the 38th IHS Symposium in Cape Town, South Africa.  As an introduction to the piece, I’ll quote from Mr. Lesnick’s performance notes, which are included in the score.

Okukoowoola Kw’Ekkondeere is an expanded version of the unaccompanied horn call that serves as the introduction to an ensemble piece scored for horn, string quartet, and maracas. This unaccompanied horn introduction works very well as a colorful stand-alone recital piece that includes sounds that are unexpected from a solo horn, even for those of us who play the instrument.  In just over four minutes the horn opens with dissonant quartertone calls, followed by sections with rhythmic African pentatonic melodies, and then becomes increasingly more percussive, finally fading into the distance with a unique muted drumming passage.  It is very audience-accessible, fun to perform for both professional and advanced student hornists, and adds some interesting diversity to the existing horn repertoire.

This piece was very fun to prepare, and I was able to perform it several times – three performances including the Southeast Horn Workshop. The work is filled with extended techniques, which took some detailed working out.  Two of the most interesting effects called for are tubular tones and percussive tapping on an inserted straight mute.  Quoting Adam Lesnick again:

In the rest at 96, the mute is inserted (for the remainder of the piece) and the second F and first Bb tuning slides are removed from the horn (also for the remainder of the piece).  From bar 97 to 131 the horn plays percussive African ostinato figures that are common in Kigandan music.  With the tuning slides removed from the valve section of the horn, the notes are played with the unusual harmonic series that is created by the open slide tubes.  Because this sound does not come out of the bell it is much smaller than the usual horn tone and, if played with strong articulation, should sound more like African percussion than a classical wind instrument.

Mr. Lesnick goes on to explain that performers should experiment with removing other slides in order to achieve the correct pitches and transposition.  I ended up removing my first and second Bb slides, which I notated in the part.  The final section of the piece stretched my meager coordination, because it requires playing the horn and tapping on a straight mute simultaneously.  For this technique I followed Mr. Lesnick’s suggestion and used a plastic shaker egg instead of my finger to tap on the mute.  If you’re curious about how all these techniques actually sound, I’ve included below the recording of my performance at the 2009 Southeast Horn Workshop.  Overall I was pleased with the performance, and I think the piece came off well.  I owe a big thank you to Dr. Travis Bennett,  Assistant Professor of Horn at WCU, for kindly sending me a copy of the recording.  He also was an excellent workshop host!  Anyway, on to my performance.

If you enjoyed Okukoowoola Kw’Ekkondeere, consider programming it on a recital or other concert in the future.  The piece is published by International Opus, and you can find much more information on it and Justinian Tamusuza in Adam Lesnick’s excellent article “New African Music for Horn,” published in the February 2007 issue of The Horn Call.

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