Immediately forceful and sinister, this is music that might emanate from a witch’s cauldron or some primordial ooze. The contrabassoon slithers through the scene, mocked by brass fanfares, accompanied by timpani hits, and interrupted by violent guiro scratches. A faster tempo ensues; the woodwinds and mallet percussion announce scalar flourishes followed by an angular theme presented by the contrabassoon. Nimble music in the woodwinds, marked by sprightly accents and dramatic changes of color, concludes this section.
The middle section of the piece now begins with a murky background and a plaintive statement from the orchestral bells and vibraphone. Marked Ethereal, this section features a rhythmic motive that develops into a distant ostinato. The simple “bell” statement matures into a melody that gradually grows powerful and triumphant. The music then settles and the menacing music from the beginning returns, what was once sinister, now takes on a rhapsodic and mildly optimistic nature. All of the earlier themes are now cast in different guises and pitted against each other.
The cauldron is stirred, the ooze flows, and the contrabassoon, now alone, simmers. As the piece comes to a close the instruments return one by one to join each other in one final, primal scream.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a filibuster is “an action such as prolonged speaking which obstructs progress in a legislative assembly in a way that does not technically contravene the required procedures.”
Largely non-programmatic, Filibuster is cast in four continuous parts. Set off by loud jabs, like a behemoth knocking on a massive door, the tuba climbs out from the depths and springs to life in a swirling, lilting dance. The soloist and ensemble send musical fragments to and fro. Part 2 begins a more tenuous journey. The woodwinds simmer nervously while the tuba sings a plaintive melody, one that never quite takes its full shape. Part 3 features a scherzo-like character that invades the different sections but in the end, succumbs to the unfinished melody of Part 2.
A brief intermezzo brings back the music from Part 1, which is now used as a transition to Part 4. Part 4 is filled with jaunty rhythms, full of child-like chatter that culminates in a feverish climax. As the ensemble reaches this highest point, the tuba takes off like a ballistic rocket. But, instead of going orbital, the music tumbles back to earth, gleaming and shimmering along the way. The opening jabs now return to shut everything down and seal the massive door.