Bright fires : four dances for orchestra
by Quentin Grant (1997)
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Imagine that, having travelled out of the city, you arrive at dusk at an enormous party where loud, disjointed music is playing and bodies are seen dancing wildly and madly in the light of the campfires. In Pounder there are aggressive trumpet and horn calls, with the rest of the orchestra answering with confused replies that do not quite fall on the beat. There are also sudden quiet spots, where the brass blow wind through their instruments without sounding notes, and the timpani plays spooky little glissandos. You join in the dancing, but the music and the scene is too overwhelming and crazy, and so you run out of the crowd and into the forest.
In the forest the silence is only broken by the sounds of birds rising to a chorus of singing, and a quiet joy rises up inside you, and you start moving and dancing to the rhythm of the trees. In Forest the woodwinds imitate birds, and then, led by the clarinets, play the repeated ostinato pattern that forms the basis of the dance. With the percussionists playing shakers and tom-toms the rhythm flows along, with the horns and low strings singing a low melody.
Refreshed, you return to the dance party, and now you join in the dance with energy and excitement, that builds and builds until you are dancing furiously and wildly. In Grinder all the low instruments rule, with the bass clarinet and contra bassoon grunting and hooting with the double bass and the french horns. When the high instruments come in they are playing a weird melody that whines like a strange siren, with the violins doing glissandos and the piccolo and flute making fluttering sounds, and the clarinettist has to bite the reed to get a high screech. The tom-toms, bass drum and timpani play the beat strongly to drive the dance along.
The grinding dance is finished, the dance music stops, and you sit on the ground, exhausted. The first rays of the new day's sun appear in the sky, a gentle wind rustles through the trees and a new melody drifts through the air. As it builds you feel new strength in the coming of a new day, and as the sun rises you too feel strong, new and fresh. In New Morning the strings, aided by solo woodwinds, introduce the gentle melody. Next all the woodwind speed up the tempo, soon getting help from the marimba and the trumpets. The melody is now played by the tubular bells, flute and high violins. You and your friends dance joyfully in the early morning light.
Instrumentation: 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling cor anglais), 2 clarinets in B flat (2nd doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons (2nd doubling contra-bassoon), 2 horns in F, 2 trumpets in C, percussion (2 players), timpani, strings.
Duration: 8 min.
Contents note: 1. Pounder -- 2. Forest -- 3. Grinder -- 4. New morning.
- In the form/style of: Suites
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