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Derek Ball Aes Triplex (2008) 14'
2+12+12+22+1 5331 Tp 2 Perc Hp Str

All Contributors: Derek Ball (composer)
Notes: Full On (dedicated to Sean Fleming) - Twilit Memories - Valediction (dedicated to Maureen Donohoe)

Programme Note:


The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra's bass trombonist Sean Fleming once advised me that there are two dynamics for his instrument : on and off! In this piece I have taken his advice literally, in that whenever the brass are on they are full on, and that applies to the bass trombone's fortissimo passages in particular.

The piece is short, uncomplicated and celebratory with a verse and refrain structure, the refrains taking the form of fanfares. In attempting to give the audience an experience which combines innovation with immediate accessibility, I make the structure as transparent as possible while avoiding anything too obvious, especially in the ambiguously wry conclusion.


This is one of a series of short pieces for orchestra which make an attempt at immediate accessibility and deal with some aspect of the brass section. But that's not all the pieces have in common. This one sets off from almost the same starting-point as the preceeding piece, Full On , but it's immediately evident that the direction taken is quite different. The brass section of course takes a key role, but while in Full On it fulfilled the stereotype of making as much noise as possible, here it shows its "feminine side"! - it's a soft, gentle presence which never draws attention to itself but is always there, an empathetic encouragement to the lyricism of the strings, a reassuring support to the waywardness of the woodwind, and an indulgent reproach to the percussion's delinquency!


Valediction is the third and final piece in a little series to which I've given the overall title Aes Triplex,/i>(Triple Brass). The first piece used the brass for its noise-making ability while in the second the brass was a quiet but pervasive background. Here it's noisy again, but in a different way. It seems to me that there's nothing to match the brass section for its ability to say "this is it! - we've arrived!" And when they say it, it stays said! Writing a piece with a noisy assertive ending made me realise just how commonly I do the opposite : end the music saying "we've gone away" not "we've arrived"! |And yet this music is about leave-taking!

The piece uses the same three chords that underpin its predecessors. Incidentally, although the piece is not serial, the three chords are : in their simplest form, using respectively 5,3,and 4 notes, they use up the 12 notes of the Western chromatic scale, perhaps explaining why they go well together. Apart from a couple of short interludes the piece consists of little else but restatements of this simple harmonic progression, more and more assertively.

I had just finished the first two pieces of Aes Triplex when I was invited to choose music for the February 2009 concert of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra's new music showcase, the Horizons series. The timing couldn't have been better, because it allowed me to write Valediction as a finale to the concert as well as to Aes Triplex. Closely involved in planning and organising the concert was Maureen Donohoe, to whom I gratefully dedicate the piece.