About this work:
In Crimson Earth, my primary concerns are the exploration of exotic sonorities and textures, the spatial placement of instrumental groups and the process of moving musicians throughout the hall to create interesting textural juxtapositions.
Although no specific programmatic associations are intended in Crimson Earth, two specific references were influential: Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s gruesomely detailed painting The Triumph of Death (c. 1562), and the following short verse I came across in a book of quotations from the Old Testament (Job, Proverbs, 24):
“He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”
When I was a child, my father introduced me to Breugel’s work and to the work of other imaginative painters from the 15th and 16th centuries, such as Hieronymus Bosch. I think what originally inspired me the most about this particular work by Breugel was how something so morbid and seemingly prophetic could have been painted hundreds of years ago, before some of the worst wars occurred in the history of the world. Of course, I could not help but think to myself, what would a battle as horrifying as the one in Bruegel’s painting sound like?
Perhaps more importantly, what sounds do we associate with battles? The sounds that came to my mind for this piece were drums, trumpets, sirens and explosions, all represented in this highly programmatic work. The combination of winds, brass and percussion seemed to be the perfect vehicle to capture the horrific sounds and gut-turning feelings one might experience during a battle. The only other sounds I needed were instrumental voices meant to represent the sounds of both ignorance and innocence. The sound of a solo violin and a solo flute seemed most appropriate, and these instruments end up framing the entire work.
In this work, I attempt to depict a battle in three connected scenes: armies emerging from far away, an ensuing destructive, chaotic battle and the armies’ final departure. Three marching “battalions” of military drum and trumpet duos represent the armies. These duos gradually convene toward the stage; the stage represents a battlefield. Once there, a battle begins in which a mostly non-pitched percussion section is highlighted through the use of battle-like sounds. As previously mentioned, two “solos” frame the three middle sections: one on a violin and the other as a duo with flute and violin. (The option of playing the violin part on an oboe is given in the score.) The whole work is essentially in a loose arch form.
The title, Crimson Earth, refers to the bloody color of the earth after battle and the power and heroism people often associate with the color red. However, although many cultures have glorified wars and battles, this is not my goal in this work. Crimson Earth represents the profound sadness that wars ultimately cause, but this work also tries to represent hope.
• (Violin Solo)
• Melting Chimes of Starlight
• Remembrance of Long Ago Idyllic Youth
• Mini Trumpet Bats, Descending
• Rising Darkness
• Brief Sky Opening, Cry for Absolution
• Calm before the Storm: Glimpses of Despair
• Three Battalions approach from Afar
• War Sirens
• Swells of Sadness
• Three Battalions Retreat
• Ashen Rainbows
• Memorial to the Sacrificial Dead
• Deserts of Ruin
• Breaths of The Everlasting Rising Phoenix
• Peace Wish
Year composed: 1999
Ensemble type: Band:Wind Ensemble or Band with Soloist(s)
Instrumentation: 1 Piccolo, 8 Flute, 2 Oboe, 1 English Horn, 1 Eb Clarinet, 8 Clarinet, 1 Alto Clarinet, 1 Bass Clarinet, 2 Bassoon, 1 Contrabassoon, 2 Alto Saxophone, 1 Tenor Saxophone, 1 Baritone Saxophone, 4 Horn in F, 6 Trumpet, 2 Trombone, 1 Bass Trombone, 2 Tuba, 2 Euphonium/Tenor Tuba, 1 Timpani, 3 Percussion (General), ,1 Violin soloist(s)
Instrumentation notes: Contrabass Clarinet may be used instead of Contrabassoon. Percussion 1: Chimes (shared with Perc. 2), Xylophone (sounds one octave higher than written), Orchestra Bells (sound 2 octaves higher than written), Snare Drum (approximately the same pitch as Perc. 2 and Perc. 3 Snare Drums), Large Tam Tam (shared with Perc. 2), Large Crash Cymbals, Large Suspended Cymbal, Medium Suspended Cymbal, Small Triangle. Percussion 2: Chimes (shared with Perc. 1), Weight for Chimes pedal (if necessary), Xylophone (sounds one octave higher than written—shared with Perc. 3), Crotales (“high” set, sound 2 octaves higher than written), Bass Drum, 4 Concert Tom Toms, Snare Drum (approximately the same pitch as Perc. 1 and Perc. 3 Snare Drums), Large Tam Tam (shared with Perc. 2), Large Crash Cymbals, Medium Suspended Cymbal, Medium Suspended Sizzle Cymbal, Metal Wind Chimes (not a “Mark Tree”), Medium Triangle. Percussion 3: Vibraphone (with working motor), Xylophone (sounds one octave higher than written—shared with Perc. 2), Orchestra Bells (sound 2 octaves higher than written), Snare Drum (approximately the same pitch as Perc. 1 and Perc. 2 Snare Drums), Medium Suspended Cymbal, Small Suspended Cymbal, Finger Cymbals (a finger cymbal machine may be used if necessary), Glass Wind Chimes, Small Triangle, 2 Single-Handed Slapsticks, Sand Blocks. Percussion 4: Marching Field Drum (Military Drum), with snares (Lowest-Pitched). Percussion 5: Marching Field Drum (Military Drum), with snares (Medium-Pitched). Bass Drum (under stage). Percussion 6: Marching Field Drum (Military Drum), with snares (Highest-Pitched)