Commissioned by the Northlands Festival
The title of my composition derives from a poem by the Russian poet Osip Mandelshtam. I chose it for two reasons: firstly, when I listened to Evelyn Glennie perform as a percussionist, I began to imagine that she was surrounded by a large and invisible sail, which she used to gather sounds towards her innermost being. Secondly, it was my intention to explore the sensitive and poetic world of percussion instruments; after all, the combination of a string quartet and percussion instruments, calls for sensitivity to balance, and a discreet use of the more brilliant and powerful members of the percussion family.
‘Ears Stretch a Sensitive Sail’ consists of seven movements, in which eleven different kinds of percussion instruments are explored within the context of a string quartet. The role of the quartet is constantly changing, according to which percussion instrument is being used. The quartet provides a harmonic framework, accompaniment and variety of textures, becoming a duo partner, providing an echo to prolong sounds and finally becoming an opponent who tries to gain the upper hand. Taken as a whole, the percussionist is the soloist, with the string quartet playing a supporting role.
The percussion instruments used are as follows:
Movement I: Suspended cymbal and tam-tam
Movement II: Steel drum and glockenspiel
Movement III: Tom-toms and bass drum
Movement IV: Tubular bells and crotales
Movement V: Snare drum
Movement VI: Marimba
Movement VII: Suspended sizzle cymbal and cow bells
© Haflidi Hallgrímsson