Through the Digital Door: works for horn and trombone in CMC's Library

This week, 'Through the Digital Door' takes a look a works for solo trombone and solo horn. Library Co-ordinator Susan Brodigan selects a range of works from CMC's collection dating across a span of twenty-five years. Several of the works are written for solo instrument and electronics, while a number of the pieces have graphic elements to their scores - explore the selection below.

Ailis Ní Riaín flat-footed-former-flyer for trombone (2002) 9'

The composer describes this work as a 'music-theatre piece for solo trombone', a work which is made to be seen as well as to be heard. The programme note which accompanies this work paints a vivid picture:

It details the life of a very odd character. He detests being seen and dislikes communicating - although as a performer, it has been his life. He is nervous, paranoid and melodramatic. Now that he is caught in the spot-light, he feels it is time to tell the world his precious secret.

He plods awkwardly on flat feet, yet once could fly?

The pieces begins neurotically on the pitch D representing his obsessive-compulsion. He stutters, stammers and cannot progress; he tries – with microtonal inflections – however, cannot quite let go (of the pitch). He is exasperated by his own behaviour.

The work continues to develop as the character's imagination takes flight, eventually spiralling completely out of control.

Jennifer Walshe they could laugh smile for trombone and tape (1999) 25'

This work was commissioned by John Kenny and premiered by him in 2002 in the John Field Room at the National Concert Hall, Dublin. This work addresses the psychology of the performance environment where a performer is attempting to do something which they find impossible.

The piece begins the second the performer sets foot on stage - their attempts to control the situation and achieve their goal, the continual thwarting of these attempts, their frustration, the way in which they find a solution to the situation; all this is made explicit on a musical as well as physical/theatrical level. The piece ends when the performer has made their compromise and can resolve the situation in some way.

Karen Power here comes another one for trombone and electronics (2011 rev. 2014) 10'

This work is described as a guided improvised conversation between an acoustic instrument and electronics, and can be performed on any instrument. This version for trombone was premiered by Roddy O'Keeffe at AIC Project Evolution in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.

here comes another one (2011/14)

Anselm McDonnell Testimony for horn (2017) 5'-10'

This work was written as part of the Psappha Composing for Horn Scheme in 2017, and is of variable duration depending on choices made by the performer. This work is the first in a series of solo works exploring the structure of mobile form and the way in which material can be recontextualised, depending on a performer's decisions or to study a certain musical element from a different angle. In this programme note, the composer discusses the title:

Testimony takes its title from the testimony of the four gospel writers who give accounts of Jesus Christ, each focusing on particular aspects of his work, character and message. For example, John focuses a lot on Christ’s identity as God made flesh, whereas Luke emphasises Jesus’ interaction with the outcasts and needy in society. Together, the four accounts give a fully orbed picture.

Anselm McDonnell - Testimony

John Buckley Sonata for Solo Horn (1993) 9'

This work was first premiered in 1993 by Cormac Ó hAodháín. The programme note for this work provides some insight into the composer's approach:

In the first movement of this Sonata for Solo Horn, the contrasts that Buckley strives for in his compositions, those of ‘movement and stillness, explosive energy and reflective lyricism, and the play of sound and time’, are displayed in the instrument’s timbral and registral possibilities within a wide dynamic range.

This first movement of this work was included on CMC's first promotional CD, released in 1995, Contemporary Music from Ireland, Volume One.

Eoghan Desmond Across the Alps for horn (2014) 5'

Across The Alps or (Brahms' Abenteuer in den Alpen) was premiered in 2014 in the Kevin Barry Room, National Concert Hall by Cormac Ó hAodháín. The score instructs the performer that the piece should be played entirely on natural harmonics of the F horn