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The Blue Bamboula


Ursula Oppens commissioned The Blue Bamboula in 1980, and I finished writing it that December. It is a rare performer indeed who will use her own resources for such a purpose, and my respect and gratitude for this self-sacrifice is exceeded only by my regard for her wonderful musicianship.

The Blue Bamboula is a single-movement piece in which I tried to respond to Oppens’ request that the work embody the spirit of an earlier work of mine, the Grand Bamboula of 1971, a 6-minute work for string orchestra which had originally been commissioned as a kind of over­ture; and I suppose that The Blue Bamboula — along with the earlier Bamboula’s extroverted spirit—also possesses something of the char­acter of an overture. But because it is nearly twice as long as the string piece, it really fits anywhere in a concert program.

Self-revealing comments about one’s composi­tional methods, and program-note descriptions of the actions and unfoldings of pieces, strike me as usually more harmful than helpful. What I can say about The Blue Bamboula, though, is that while based on an ordered set like all my works, its surface is very far removed indeed from what journalists (and, I regret to say, some professionals) think of when they talk of some­thing they call “twelve-tone music.”

The Blue Bamboula is part of series of pieces of similar titles, which have nothing in common beyond their names but a community of spirit. In addition to the two mentioned here, there is also Bamboula Squared (1984), for computer-generated tape and orchestra; and Bamboula Beach (1987), an overture with Cuban themes, written for Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony of Miami.


"Best of all was Mr. Wuorinen's work - wonderfully clever, fiendishly difficult romp, reckless and carefully at teh same time." Tim Page , New York Times

"The Wuorinen. a piece commissioned by Miss Oppens, finds the composer in very high spirits.  It is-at least in mood-an extended kind of scherzo, full of unexpected flashes of color and movemnet, sudden outburts and veering changes of direction." Bernard Holland, New York Times