Zero Infinity (2005, rev. 2012)
Recording Available: itunes
Instrumentation: Tuba and Percussion
Sam Pilafian and J.B. Smith
Feb. 25, 2007 at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ by Sam Pilafian and J.B. Smith
Zero Infinity was commissioned in 2005 by Sam PIlafian, an amazing and talented musician, who is professor of tuba at Arizona State University. In thinking of a title for this piece, I came across an article which discussed the mysterious zero/infinity conundrum. Zero and infinity represent powerful adversaries at either end of the realm of numbers that we use in modern science. Yet, zero and infinity are two sides of the same coin--equal and opposite, yin and yang. "Multiply zero by anything and you get zero. Multiply infinity by anything and you get infinity. Dividing a number by zero yields infinity; dividing a number by infinity yields zero. Adding zero to a number leaves the number unchanged. Adding a number to infinity leaves infinity unchanged." Yet, the biggest questions in sciences, philosophy, and religion are about nothingness and eternity, the void and the infinite, zero and infinity.
The title Zero Infinity appropriately describes my compositional conception of this piece, equal and opposite. The piece is in one movement, divided into three sections. Sections one and three are equals in that they contain intense rhythmic drive. Section two, however, is the complete opposite of this, being very slow and lyrical. In this piece, I explore the extreme range of the tuba, many times stretching the technical limits of conventional tuba writing. The percussion part, which is also very challenging, helps keep the rhythmic energy throughout the piece.
The concepts of zero and infinity continue to astound and intrigue me, much like the technical and musical capabilities of tuba player Sam Pilafian. This piece was written to showcase the "infinite" talent of the performers.