Taking Command

Composed 2019


    solo trumpet in C (recommended) or Bb

Duration 6'

Commissioned by

    Armida Rivera

Program Notes

    Acclaimed novelist Joseph Heller enjoys a reputation seldom bestowed upon a writer. His first novel, Catch-22, has entered the everyday American lexicon and enjoys a level of prestige that places the novel in the 1% of the 1% of famous works of literature. The incredible comedy and sardonic wit of Catch-22 serves as an extreme opposite to Heller’s widely ignored and forgotten sophomore effort, 1974’s Something Happened, a novel that is unabashedly twisted and darkly depressing, to only touch the surface. The novel centers around the anger and depression of Bob Slocum, who finds fault with nearly, if not every aspect of his normal upper-middle class suburban life – his wife, kids, profession, car, environment, house, etc. Over the course of the novel Bob becomes existential dread personified, giving a rather long and prophetic statement (500+ pages in all) about the shortcomings of his “lot” in life. This unfortunate outlook must have played a role in the work’s undeserved lack of popularity, especially when compared to its predecessor.

    So when Armida Rivera tasked me to musically respond towards “tragedy,” Bob Slocum’s incessant ramblings about everything wrong with his world served as a point of inspiration. While perhaps not to the literary extreme of Something Happened, there is an undeniable tragedy towards everyday life that we all experience in our own unique ways, and a lack of rest or success further exacerbates a tragic sense of discontentment with life’s direction. But it’s important to remember that mere acceptance does not lead to resolution. Indeed, mere acceptance without resolution and resolve is even more tragic than an inability to know where your faults and wrongs are. Eventually, after an acceptance the clock begins to tick forward, and unless we are willing to move, something will happen, and we become something physically we fight so hard mentally to avoid.

    Taking Command was commissioned by and composed with deep gratitude for Armida Rivera in February of 2019.

February 26 2019

Joseph Foster Harkins