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Anthem for Doomed Youth

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Josh Trentadue

Josh Trentadue

General Info

Year: 2018
Duration: c. 20:00
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: M.O.T.I.F.
Cost: Contact composer


1. Wailing Shells
2. Each Slow Dusk


Full Score
Flute I-II-III (second doubling Alto Flute, third doubling Bass Flute)
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
C Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Bass Trombone
Double Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum (small and large)
  • Brake Drum
  • Chimes
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Field Drum or Rope Drum (large)
  • Glockenspiel
  • Marimba
  • Ratchet
  • Sirens (high and low)
  • Sizzle Cymbal
  • Snare Drum
  • Splash Cymbal
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-Tam (large)
  • Tom-Toms (4)
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) was first and foremost a poet, but he was unable to pursue this passion academically after being rejected from several universities. Instead, Wilfred would serve his country England during World War I, leading to an almost fatal accident which left him hospitalized for several months. However, during his recovery, and under the tutelage of his co-patient and fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon (who would introduce him to literary authors such as H.G. Wells), Wilfred wrote what is considered to be some of the most beloved British poetry concerning World War I, depicting both the psychological and physical tortures of the battlefield and the human condition during these violent times.

Anthem for Doomed Youth is one such poem of Wilfred Owen's personal experiences in battle. There is no true glimmer of hope to be found in this excruciatingly detailed account of trench warfare. The first stanza alone conjures up the imagery of rapid onslaughts of violence matched by agonizing and religious choirs of despair. The tone then shifts in the second stanza to subdued reflections in an almost mocking fashion, suggesting as if even the prayers and chants of those who follow religion are completely meaningless compared to the tragedies of war. Their cries for help and salvation are almost irrelevant in this regard.

I was first introduced to Wilfred's poem just a few years ago by a good friend in college. I was immediately entranced by the gruesomely dark nature of Wilfred's poem as well as its bleak and sometimes sarcastic tone. Any references made to church and prayer are shockingly and bitterly mocked. His striking use of metaphor and juxtapositions of various lines (the "choirs" with "wailing shells," for example) embody the dual nature of his prose, as both a bitter reflection of soldiers his age (and even younger) marching to war and dying while cruelly mocking those at home praying for their loved ones to survive. Ironically, Wilfred Owen would rejoin his regiment after recovering from his injuries, only to be killed in action just a few months later.

This overall sense of duality within the madness and chaos of Anthem for Doomed Youth became the basis for the musical conceptualization of the poem. Using the full forces of the wind ensemble, the work is divided into two movements (one for each stanza). Metaphors and other distinctive elements of the poem are translated into musical motives surrounded by moments of chaotic frenzy and subdued liturgies.

Movement I, Wailing Shells, begins with a cold introduction of machine-like, impending doom that continuously creates more uncertainty and panic. The scene of violence and destruction which follows is juxtaposed with dissonant echoes of chordal "choirs" off in the distance, praying and pleading to their respective deities. Gunfire and cannons are brought to life with heavy percussive artillery and constant woodwind shrieks and shrills. The warfare seemingly never ends, even with minor victories; it only grows stronger until its sudden cataclysmic end.

Movement II, Each Slow Dusk, begins after a desolate soundscape that closes the first movement. A processional, including liturgical-like music that's introduced and scorned soon after, is met with tremors of the battles that have occurred. Horn/trumpet calls and church bells are all heard off in the distance. A memorial soon begins in reflection of those who died in service of their country, only to be overtaken once more with tragic memories of the horrors of the war. Nightmarish visions bring back the intensity and never-ending terrors to cataclysmic results once again.

​As Owen had indicated in his poem, there is not a true resolve to the bitterness of these moments in the end. There are only just memories to be forgotten and fallen ones to be laid to rest.

- Program Note by composer

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.



None discovered thus far.

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


Josh Trentadue website