Tarantula (Introduction and Tarantella for Band) (grade 4)

Tarantula was commissioned by the South Carolina Band Directors Association for the 2020 South Carolina All-State Band. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the premiere was delayed and I was unable to present the first performance of the piece with the talented students who made the band that year.

The idea for Tarantula grew out of my desire to try writing a tarantella, a traditional Italian dance that is normally characterized by a fast tempo, 6/8 meter, and the use of tambourines and guitar or mandolin. The form has appeared in the works of composers throughout the history of Western art music, but supposedly originated in the frantic and feverish dances of victims of the bite of the Lycosa tarantula spider. The resultant dance would apparently last for extraordinarily long periods of time until the dancer would collapse from exhaustion.

My piece begins with an optional (but highly preferred) classical guitar solo that introduces the two main themes for the work at a slow tempo and in reverse order, gradually building to the climactic moment of the spider’s bite. Immediately, the tempo increases substantially as the victim begins to dance the tarantella. Although the basic structure of the piece is a traditional sonata form, there is a constant sense of increasing intensity and anxiety throughout the work, until the coda finally accelerates to a frenzied conclusion.