Heading: for brass quintet
4 July 2003
Lichfield Festival, UK
Fine Arts Brass
Instrumentation: brass quintet
The summer months are my favorite time of year; the lightness of the warm air, the brightness, the outdoors-ness of everything. For many, the weather makes people extroverted; no cowering under heaps of protective quilts to stay warm; rather an absence of clothing promotes extended limbs, frolicking and skipping in the sun.
Although brass instruments are very agile, and can play almost any kind of figure, repeated notes are nevertheless very idiomatic. If all five players are playing rapidly repeated chords, and each player in turn brings out a note by accenting it, a new line is etched out, creating a kind of aural foreground against the harmonic background. Because there are five players in a quintet, this newly created line has groupings of five, whereas the musical material underpinning the repeated chords is based on units of four. That difference creates a tension whose asymmetry I welcomed. Throughout the piece, in less active sections, as well as upbeat staccato areas, a shared musical line of successive single accented notes passed from one instrument to the next is featured, like what one might find in hand bell choirs.
The celebratory liveliness of this summer month cannot be sustained entirely, because, by late august, the season is nearly over; a coolness settles into the nights, and melancholy has a way of creeping in. We hear this in the quieter middle section. But the hot days resume, and the piece rolls like a controlled stampede to its conclusion.
August was commissioned by Fine Arts Brass with funds from West Midlands Arts, the BMW Plant Hams Hall and the Embassy of the United States of America, London. It was premiered by Fine Arts Brass on 4th July 2003 at the Lichfield Festival, United Kingdom.