Sound Carvings from the Bell Foundry
My series of instrumental Sound Carvings works through the 1990s featured strings and mixed chamber media, the generic title referring to a formal relationship of short movements arranged more like sculptures than as a fixed sequence. The pieces in this series have between three and twenty-one short movements; this work in the series is in six movements. These do have sequential relationship, in that two are interludes between larger pieces, while the first piece is clearly introductory. This title also refers to the distinctive ‘bell’ feature shared by the brass instruments, and likens the creative of music for brass to the casting of a bell – for indeed the raw materials of the instruments of the group are an ever-present element in the material created for them.

Several musical ideas here evolved from my recent work for a very different medium: in spring 2006 I evolved and directed the music for a theatrical spectacle by the children of a school in the Isle of Skye, Scotland – An Dealbh Mòr (the Big Picture), a 20’ dance performance with semi-improvised score by an ensemble of musicians from among the children. A number of leading ideas from the recent collaboration is developed into this work for brass: in particular the project’s main idea, ‘Anthem’, appears in various guises through this work – most obviously in the two interludes, which treat it in the manner of chorale preludes.

Sound Carvings from the Bell Foundry is dedicated to the artist Julie Brook, who created the project An Dealbh Mòr. It was co-commissioned by the Belfast Festival at Queen’s with funds from the National Lottery of Northern Ireland, and by the Kristiansand Festival, Norway, for Stockholm Kammarbrass, who premiered it in October 2006.

c Piers Hellawell 2006