Composition Date: 2018
Duration: c. 9.40′
Instrumentation: Brass Quintet
Scoring: 2tpt, hn, tbn, tuba (or btbn)
When I set out to write this piece, I was creating a portfolio of works that focused on the musical expression of joy (an emotion I have written about here). Little did I know that, by choosing to set one of these pieces for a brass quintet, I couldn’t have chosen a better sound palette!
For one thing, these instruments are inherently bursting with festive energy, infectious humour, wise-cracking bravado and mischievous wit.
But there is another feature of joy that made these instruments so well suited.
Joy is very often preceded by intense pain or periods of struggle, tension and uncertainty (as in the joys of childbirth, a scientific discovery, forgiveness, and so on). In other words, we often experience the most intense joy as a result of overcoming some great suffering or difficulty.
So this is equally true when it comes to expressing joy in musical terms. It cannot all be a matter of witty banter and prancing about! Joy, as I understand it, goes deeper than that. In order to make sense of why the music has suddenly become joyful, there must be some kind of preceding struggle, tension or uncertainty that has just been resolved or overcome.
Of course, the incredibly rich colours and dynamics of a brass quintet were perfect for this: they are able to express the most intimate anguish, the red-hot intensity of rage, the passion of a bitter conflict, a sense of intractable confusion and the deepest sorrow.
And so the emotional journey that was evoked (and expressed) as I wrote the piece was, necessarily, something of a roller coaster. Nevertheless, joy — in one way or another — always had the final say!