Subtitle: Variations for Wind Ensemble
Flute I-II (II doubles Piccolo)
Bb Soprano Clarinet I-II-III (III doubles Eb Soprano)
Bb Bass Clarinet
Alto Saxophone I-II
Cornet (in Bb) I-II-III
Trumpet (in Bb) I-II-III (III doubles Eb Trumpet)
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Percussion I-II-III, including:
- Bass Drum
- Cowbell (2)
- Cymbal (crash, ride, suspended)
- Snare Drum (2)
- Tenor Drums (3)
- Tom-Toms (4)
- Triangle (2)
- Tubular Bells
- Water Gong
- Wind Chimes (Glass and Metal)
- Wood Block (4)
None discovered thus far.
When I decided to write a work based on this ancient tune I had to balance three competing and apparently incompatible intentions. Firstly, given the text of the song and the time I was writing the music -- prior to and during the hostilities in Iraq -- I wanted it to express some of my feelings towards the institution of war. Secondly, since the melody has been an inspiration over more than five centuries since its composition, I wanted to honour that tradition by alluding to some of the musical styles and employing some of the techniques of my predecessors. Thirdly, some evidence points to the origin of this tune as a French drinking song, so I wanted the music to have an element of enjoyment and exuberance.
As the music progressed I was surprised at the extent to which the first intention became dominated by the second and third. Only traces of the “war theme” could be detected in the finished work. Examples are the siren-like opening and closing motifs, the rhythms of Te Rauparaha’s war chant “Ka mate, Ka ora” (if I live, I die), a “pleading” motif derived from a “waiata tangi” (mourning song), and a brief march and funeral procession. The homage to musical tradition is seen in the form of the whole piece, that most ancient of musical structures, variations on a theme. Within this overall form, canons of all possible types and descriptions abound. I quickly came to the conclusion that this L’Homme armé owed much of its popularity with composers to its great contrapuntal potential. As for the “enjoyment theme”, elements of dance and popular song from several ages and places infiltrate much of the piece and power its momentum to a vigorous climax.
Gradually I came to see that my three intentions for this piece were not entirely incompatible. In my research to a programme note I came across the following curious quotation with which Pierre de la Rue (1460-1518) concluded one of his two exquisite mass settings on L’Homme armé. "Extrema guadi luctus occupant" (the extremes of joy can ward off sorrow). Perhaps one antidote to the sorrows of war can be found in the sheer joy of music.
- Program Note by Christopher Marshall
- Audio CD: Ithaca University Wind Ensemble (Timothy Reynish, conductor).
- Audio CD: University of Kentucky Wind Ensemble (Timothy Reynish, conductor)
None discovered thus far.
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- Boston (Mass.) Conservatory Wind Ensemble (Vimbayi Kaziboni, conductor) – 12 December 2019
- Sydney (Aus.) Conservatorium of Music (John P. Lynch, conductor) - 18 September 2018
Works for Winds by this Composer
- Alafaya (2019)
- The Audacity of Hope (2008)
- L'homme armé (2003)
- Méndez (2015)
- Rust Belt (2017)
- U Trau
- Christopher Marshall website
- Marshall, C. (2003). L’Homme armé: Variations for Wind Ensemble [score]. Maecenas Music: Kenley, Surry, UK.