Ring’d with the Azure World was commissioned by the Harmonia Brass quintet for their final recital at the University of Huddersfield in 2016.
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
– The Eagle by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The music was inspired by Tennyson’s poem reproduced above; it seeks simply to reflect the spirit of the poem. It opens in sparse, lonely mood as the eagle surveys the world beneath. The work quickens in three bursts using metrical modulation to disguise the actual moment of acceleration, reflecting the lazy energy stored in the circling raptor before concluding dramatically in a fall ‘like a thunderbolt’. Tennyson’s poem, although brief, has inspired much analysis and writing, and is notable for being written in the (then somewhat unfashionable) iambic tetrameter, indicating a foursquare emphasis reflected in the main theme of the music. This is heard first in an octatonic version and later in a purely tonal (if somewhat modal) version. The instrumentation reflects that of Harmonia Brass, a quintet composed of brass band instruments (two B flat cornets, an E flat tenor horn, tenor trombone and E flat tuba). However the music is also available for the more conventional brass quintet of two trumpets, french horn, trombone and tuba.
1st cornet/trumpet requires a cup mute, ideally with an adjustable cup (the marking “tight” denotes that the cup should be adjusted closer to the bell), and a harmon mute with the tube removed (denoted by “TR” in the score). 2nd cornet/trumpet requires a fibre straight mute and a harmon mute with the tube removed. Tenor horn require a fibre straight mute and a practice mute (any sort) – in the orchestral brass version the french horn requires a stop mute. Trombone requires a cup mute (only). Tuba requires a fibre straight mute and a practice mute (of any sort).
Metronome marks should be closely observed – starting either too fast or too slow will have a disproportionate effect on the tempi later in the piece due to the metrically controlled tempo changes.