isti mirant stella is based on an extract from the text of the Bayeux Tapestry, which was commissioned by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, to commemorate the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century. This text relates to the appearance of Halley’s Comet in the spring of 1066. King Edward the Confessor died without an heir early on 5 January 1066 and despite his apparent promise of the throne to William, Duke of Normandy, the Anglo-Saxon Witenagemot appointed Harold Godwinson of Wessex as his successor. Just after Harold’s hastily arranged coronation the comet appeared, reaching its perihelion on 20 March 1066. In the Middle Ages comets were regarded as evil omens; the tapestry depicts men gazing at the “star” in wonder and Harold himself apparently lost in nightmarish visions of invasion, with ghostly ships in the margins of the tapestry.
The music attempts to reflect the mood of this brief but crucial period of English history – the unsettled matter of the royal succession linked in the superstitious medieval imagination to the haunting, spectral apparition of the comet. Medieval composition techniques are employed in places, including the use of a ‘tenor’, hocketing and a brief isoryhthmic motet. The music attempts to avoid tonal centres and particularly any form of diatonic ‘resolution’, instead exploring the issue of unresolved dissonance as a musical device in its own right.
All cornets, flugel and solo horn will require bottles filled with water to varying levels to ‘tune’ them to the correct pitch for the closing section of the piece. Pitches for the bottles are notated in the same transposition as the player’s main instrument, so for example a notated D in the bottle part for flugel would sound as a C.
All cornets except soprano require harmon mutes; where these are marked ‘TR’ these should have the tube removed. ‘TI’ denotes the tube should be left all the way in. Soprano and solo cornet III require metal straight mutes; flugel, all tenor horns, 2nd baritone and both euphoniums require fibre straight mutes. Soprano, all solo cornets and all trombones require cup mutes.
The percussion section will require vibraphone (with a suitable bow, preferably a ‘cello bow), glockenspiel, tubular bells (low and high E only), concert bass drum, tam-tam and snare drum – the bass drum and tam-tam will require brushes in addition to the normal beaters. In addition 1st horn and 1st baritone are required to play triangles, which should ideally be different pitches if possible.
Approximate duration 7’48”
NOTE: This set comes with a B4 score. To view a PDF preview click here.
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