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what passing-bells? (Carillon solo)

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Solo
2017
5 min.

Pitched Percussion

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Program Notes
I had been thinking about how carillons sound mournful to me, even when playing celebratory repertoire. I was also considering Soldiers' Tower on the University of Toronto campus - where we hosted the orientation for this workshop - as a memorial to the young people lost in the first World War. I wanted to explore the concept of the sound of the bells being itself a gateway between life and death. I was briefly fixated on the idea of the actual stone doorways around campus, how the sound changes as we pass through them. But in writing the piece, I was taken up with the problem of how to generate the shimmering "veil" of sound that separates us from our missing and dead. I ended up lifting an ever-changing pattern of pitches from the English change ringing church bell tradition, but changing the scale from major to one of Messiaen's octatonic modes, which I knew would resonate with the mournful minor thirds of the carillon bells' overtones. The pedal melody in the low bells is meant to be played as though speaking or singing certain chopped-up phrases from Wilfred Owen's poem Anthem for Doomed Youth, written shortly before the Great War took him as well: "What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?... ...no prayers nor bells; Nor any voice of mourning... ...bugles calling for them... ...What candles..."
Recording Notes
On Friday, September 22, 2017, the Canadian Music Centre and Musica Reflecta presented Opus: Testing // Tower & Helm, a public presentation of eight new works written for carillon as part of the Opus Testing workshop. Carilloneur: Roy Lee The concert took place at Metropolitan United Church, Toronto. This recording was made in the bell chamber, by Roy Lee.
Ensemble Name
Roy Lee

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