BROUWER, M: Aurolucent Circles / Mandala / Remembrances
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Margaret Brouwer (b. 1940)Aurolucent Circles - Mandala - Pulse - Remembrances - SIZZLE
Written for Evelyn Glennie, Aurolucent Circles is a concerto conceived to display the wonderful array of delicate and mysterious percussion sounds it is possible for a skilled player to produce, as well as the styles of more traditional drumming. The aim was to make a concerto that would be as musically sophisticated as the ones usually written for the violin or piano. In the delicate and transparent sections, the soloist is often accompanied only by one of two concertino groups. The first group consists of two flutes, two harps, two section percussion, solo strings, and one trombone, and is used in various combinations. The second group is a concertino of five woodwinds. Lyrical and intimate sections of either solo percussion, or solo accompanied by concertino players are contrasted with loud drum solos accompanied by full orchestra.
Inspired by the poetic physical motion of Evelyn Glennie when she performs, it became an important aim in this work that there be motion in the sound as well. The second movement, which was composed first, was planned as a dance of sound and motion. Beginning with the soloist and gradually including the centre concertino group, Stardance begins with the sound and visual motion of bells ringing in the solo percussion as well as the section percussion who are positioned around the stage. As more members of the orchestra begin to play, there are sections where the sound begins in one part of the stage and floats or swings to another. In addition, in the full orchestral sections, the sound sometimes sweeps from one side of the stage to the other in a waltz-like motion.
The first movement begins with blurred colours, sounds and mysterious melodies. Becoming increasingly driving, it ends with fast, telescoping patterns of notes grouped according to the Fibonacci number series. The third movement is a quick-moving perpetual motion that begins with a five-note rhythmic motive circling around the back and sides of the stage between the orchestral percussionists. The soloist interrupts with a drum solo that leads to an interaction with the woodwind concertino. This is contrasted with sections of bright, full orchestral sound. Continuing in non-stop forward motion throughout, the rhythm develops and the five-note pattern evolves into further use of the ratios in the Fibonacci series.
The name Aurolucent Circles was inspired by the sparkling and lucent sound of so many of the percussion instruments used in the concerto. That, along with the circling of the sound around the stage, brought to mind the aurora borealis (an electrical atmospheric phenomenon consisting of luminous meteoric streamers, bands, hazy curtains, and streamers of light in the night sky). 'Aurolucent' combines the words aurora and lucent.
Mandala was commissioned by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony. It was written during a residency at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. While I was there, Tibetan monks spent ten days in the adjoining town of Peterborough creating an intricate sand painting of a mandala. After about a week, they destroyed the mandala in a ceremony of explanation, chanting and horn blowing. At some point, I realised that the experience of the mandala was interwoven into the fabric of this piece. The music is very much constructed in circles that spiral inward. In addition, because the brass are positioned in the auditorium, the music travels in circles around the performance space.
Along with the mandala experience, I was furthering my study of musical works that come from my own Dutch heritage. There is a Dutch song book of the Psalms in partbook format, Het Boek nevens de Gezangen bij de Hervormde Kerk van Nederland, from 1773, which has been handed down in my family. I was struck by the melody of the Psalm XCI tune. My grandfather, who was a Dutch Reformed minister, always read Psalm XCI before a journey, calling it the traveller's psalm.
The trombone states the psalm tune in its entirety at the beginning of the first movement, Journey. Throughout the remainder of the movement the tune is always present in some form, sometimes in entire phrases, sometimes in fragments that float in a circle of colours and ornaments. The movement ends with a sudden rhapsodic flourish in the flute answered quietly by the vibraphone and trumpet. The second movement, Sand Mandala, begins without pause and continues the mandala-like circling. The psalm tune is frequently present, although often in a fleeting and usually contemporary context. The music circles, pummeling forward through whispering, agitation, moments of mayhem, long tones in the brass like the droning of the monks (overlaid with the stability of insistent rhythms and repetitions), and a section of hazy, clouded remembrances of the psalm tune (overlaid with a tolling that passes around the circle of the brass).
In this movement, the musicians whisper various texts. Most of the words will, intentionally, not be heard well enough to be understood by the audience, but the musicians interpret the quality and meaning of the words in the manner that they play the music. The composer believes that the whispers contribute in a mystical way to the mandala. The whispers are quotes from various newspapers, books and magazines and are about the pollution of the earth, the stresses of twenty-first-century life, mystical visions of God, and the amazing wonder and capabilities of the human animal. The quotations symbolize circling through (as the Random House Dictionary describes mandala) the effort to reunify the self.
Pulse was commissioned by David Wiley and the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra in honour of the orchestra's Fiftieth Anniversary and was supported by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Rhythmic pulses of differing values exist over a steady grand pulse that is the same for all. The spirit motive emerges, mysterious, rustling, and whispery, flowing through with melody, and in the end becomes infused and strengthened by connections of differing values and pulses.
The tone poem Remembrances is an elegy and a tribute to Robert Stewart who was a musician, composer, sailor, and loved one. Beginning with an expression of grief and sorrow, the music evolves into a musical portrait, full of warm memories, love and admiration, and images of sailing. Typical of elegies and tone poems such as Death and Transfiguration by Richard Strauss, it ends in a spirit of consolation and hope.
SIZZLE was commissioned by The Women's Philharmonic as part of The Fanfares Project, the largest commission in history of new works by women composers. The Fanfares Project, a series of ten orchestral works, is presented in partnership with the American Composers Orchestra and the Lubbock Symphony. Support for this work was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the James Irvine Foundation, AT&T, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the California Arts Council, and hundreds of individuals across the United States. SIZZLE received its world premi?¿re on 30th September, 2000, by the Women's Philharmonic, Apo Hsu conducting.James Gleick describes the alarming pace and frenetic life-style of the twenty-first century in his book, Faster. One of his many examples is the Master Clock, which is overseen by the Directorate of Time, an agency of the United States Military. It constantly consults fifty other atomic clocks to compute time within the millisecond so that computers and digital devices around the world can alter their conventional time to 'exact' time. In SIZZLE, the orchestra could be said to represent this part of twentyfirst- century life, fast-paced, energized, and filled with emphatic and mesmerising rhythms. The three trombones and one horn, situated apart from the rest of the orchestra, explore a deeper current, a psychic cultural connection with