Greg A. Steinke
MEMORIES of Chief Joseph (Image Music XI-B):

Depoe Bay, Oregon, United States
Publisher: Tierra del Mar Music
Date of Publication: 2004 / 1994

Version for bass trombone and piano. Score and parts.


Greg Steinke is a retired music professor with an extensive list of compositions. MEMORIES of Chief Josephwas originally written for violin and marimba, and has been edited for a variety of instruments including bass trombone, and a piano version. Several of his works center around his study of Northwest Native Americans.


Steinke writes, “The present work is freely conceived, being through-composed and based on a cyclic, multipart approach to form; no ‘system’ as such is used, and the composer has felt free to draw upon whatever compositional resources suitable for his purpose. These movements represent ‘abstractions’ of the place/situation entitled. They should be enjoyed as is but with reflection upon the implications suggested.”


Consisting of five movements, the first, “Prelude,” lasts 45 seconds and uses contemporary notation to elicit indeterminate durations and contemplative mood-evoking effects.  “Memories: On the Clear Water” is mostly a call and response form. There are moments of interplay with awkward skips that create a somewhat haunting mood. The sparse scoring makes effective use of silence, and mallet changes, hemiola, and glisses maintain listening interest.  “Memories: Camas Meadow – Henry’s Lake” is indicated in a faster tempo, in ABA form, and might be the most challenging because of the marimba part, mallet changes, and expected effects. The bass trombonist is expected to trill on f# and c#1. The thin scoring really helps to evoke the composer’s intentions. “Memories: Wallowa – Never to Return” contains perhaps the most tuneful material of the work. There are still moments of rhythmic complexity (5 against 4), borrowed rhythms, and improvised effects. The last movement, “Postlude,” calls for mute and is plaintive, if not mournful. Durations are improvised and again the marimba player must change mallets.


The piano version requires strumming, harmonics, prepared piano, rapid articulation of a single key to simulate rolling on the marimba, and some of the sustained marimba rolls are rescored to dramatic octave sweeps. The fourth movement has more unison playing and the postlude is longer. Certainly a different aesthetic is accomplished, but the overall feel of the music remains relatively unchanged.


Range is reasonable and it appears that rhythmic accuracy is the most challenging component of the bass trombone part. Scored in C, the accidentals are numerous, but neither overwhelming nor atonal. The marimba and piano parts appear to be the more difficult, however reading from the score would make bringing the parts together relatively easy. Sparseness, interplay, mallet changes, piano effects, and rhythmic vitality combine to affirm the composer’s descriptions of ‘abstraction’ and ‘reflection upon the implications suggested’ as accurate. It is possible to get a good taste of the entire work through performance of one of the inner movements.

Reviewer: David Stern
Review Published January 15, 2019