"Rebellion" by Stephen Rush
An Analysis of Stephen Rush’s Rebellion
By Tyler Justin Hughes
When one first listens to Stephen Rush’s Rebellion for trombone, piano, and percussion, one can get the impression of being assaulted by sounds. The melodies and harmonies, the percussion, appears, at first glance, as if it had been randomly assembled independent from each other then put on the same page. After a few more hearings, one can, however, start to hear some kind of form and an actual melody which makes the piece seem less crazy and random. It is very east piece to take apart and figure it out this piece almost to where you can predict the next phrases. This form gives something for the ear to follow, thus allowing the content of the piece to be as “out there” as it needs to be to express what Rush wanted to be expressed.
The beginning of the piece sets the tone for the rest of the piece with its aggressive attacks from the trombone, piano, and tom-toms in unison rhythm. The whole beginning is like an “amuse bouche” of everything that is to come in the piece. Within the first 40 measures Rush treats the audience to fast rhythms, an array of percussion instruments, and effects such as glissandos in the trombone, piano scratching and the strumming. We also start to see a little hint of variation in the trombone line in measure 27 in where every three measures the shape and rhythm is repeated.
The second section of the piece develops a tonal center and a lyrical sense of style, this section really helps break up the intensity of the beginning, which, by this point, has begun to feel overpowering. It still keeps its’ drive throughout the section due to the constant rhythm as well the brake drum in measure 63. There are very few flashy effects in this section from both piano and trombone. It appears that this section’s focus is all about the sound of the trombone, the piano plays the role of background accompaniment.
All that was the previous section comes to an abrupt stop at measure 96. This is where the transition section ends at measure 105. This transition section is all about effects and fermatas in order to prepare the audience for the last section.
The last section of the piece is treated as the “main course” of the piece. Rush incorporates elements from other sections and exaggerates them in this section as well as adds more of a aggressive percussive element with the prepared piano and vocal effects.. This is more apparent at the “pîu mosso” where both the trombone and piano act as if they are percussion instruments with the piano playing forearm cluster chords and yelling while the trombone plays either toneless glissandos or screams in rhythm. Then at the “con moto” we hear a direct quote of the second section as well as some quotes from the very beginning of the piece fused into one line. The entire piece ends with same feeling with which the piece began; a unison rhythmic pattern of straight 16th notes with a slowly increasing volume and attack with a sudden stop.
All in all, Stephen Rush’s Rebellion is a feast of sound that provides a four course meal of ideas and themes. The first course is an appetizer of things to come, the second course is a smooth course that cleanses the palate for the next course, and the final course has a little bit of the preceding courses with a little bit of its own flavor. After all the courses have been served, you are left with a satisfying feeling despite the piece’s perceived unstable content.