Full orchestra: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, 2 percussion: [1 - triangle (medium), wood block, tambourine, suspended cymbal, hi-hat, maracas, snare drum, chimes, bowed crotales], [2 - temple blocks, wood block, sizzle cymbal, tam-tam (large), bass drum, bongos, triangle (small), vibraphone], harp, timpani, strings
Commissioned by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra Society, Inc. through the generous assistance of the AT&T Foundation Endowment for New Works and the Arts & Science Council Charlotte/Mecklenburg, Inc, and the North Carolina Arts Council
Charlotte Symphony, Peter McCoppin, conductor
OUP (rental), distributed by C.F. Peters.
Ring of Fire is a a tone poem. It is an abstract expression of a line of poetry in section IV of T. S. Eliot’s "Little Gidding." We only live, only suspire, consumed by either fire or fire. This poetry has haunted me since 1970 the year I committed it to memory while learning Igor Stravinsky’s The Dove Descending. What does it mean, to be consumed by fire or fire? What does it mean to only live consumed by passion or passion? The image is ignited musically by a melodic fragment in the tremolo strings echoed here and there by solo horn. To suggest flame, I added short woodwind arpeggios and a two chord motive which are heard in bursts of activity, extended string lines, and brief articulations from the woodwinds, brass and cymbals. Then it quiets for a moment. Here silence is more important than sound, interrupted by soft utterances from high strings and solo woodwinds. Following this, the music becomes active again with a new rhythmic motive added in the brass. The texture eventually consumes the line, leaving only a fragment, uttered by the bass clarinet, to play against a bit of rhythm in the muted trumpets.
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