Song of the Bells
piano reductionflute, piano (1987)
Song of the Bells is in the shape of an asymmetrical arch, beginning in a haze of disorganized percussion sounds, slowly gathering speed, and eventually reaching a peak of motoric energy and brilliance (the tempo marking in the score is Avanti!), then quickly dying away to a nearly inaudible tintinnabulation. Besides the literal bell sounds emanating from the percussion section (which includes glockenspiel, vibraphone, xylophone, crotales, chimes, marimba, Mexican bean, and assorted drums, cymbals, and gongs), allusions to bells in the opening bars include horn phrases that recall the Westminster chimes("Big Ben") and regular harp strokes, like a chiming clock. Soon after its dramatic entrance, the solo flute plays a languido melody, which the first violins then take up, accompanied by improvised chirping and twittering from the soloist. After a return of the chime theme in ghostly string harmonics, dance rhythms begin to drive the music to its climax, first in gay triplet eighth notes, then in blindingly fastsixteenths. When the peak is reached, the horns sing out the Westminster chime theme above the swirl of activity; violins and the soloist then take it up as well, but tenderly, as the music fades to a tinkling in the distance.
- David Wright