Commissioned for Music Nova by the Scottish National Ochestra and the University of Glasgow.

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  • 13 min

Programme Note

Martin Dalby: The Tower of Victory

The Tower of Victory stands in India. At the bottom of its spiral stairs lies a half-formed creature which remains dormant until an approaching traveller awakes some secret life in it. The A Bao A Qu, as the creature is known, is sensitive to the subtle shades of the human soul; it follows the traveller up the stairs, its colour becoming more intense, its form approaching perfection at each level. Only on the terrace at the top will the creature be complete and it will only venture there when the pilgrim it follows has attained Nirvana. The A Bao A Qu suffers by its incompletion: it moans like the rustle of silk as it falls to the bottom step.

The Tower of Victory was written in 1973 in response to a commission from the Scottish National Orchestra, who played it for the first time, and the University of Glasgow for their Musica Nova that year. It's a study for the lower pitched instruments in the orchestra, there being no violins, flutes, nor oboes. The colour of the piece is dark; even the trumpet players spend much of their energies playing darker-toned flugal horns. The textures depend on the interplay of various choruses: the now almost traditional sounds of the alto flute, harp, marimba, vibraphone and violas; a choir of flugel horns, cornet and two cor anglais; harmonies carried by four clarinets or emerging from the covered sounds of brass.

A Bao A Qu forms a convenient musical cypher; it is the seed from which all the musical material grows. Like the story of the music of The Tower of Victory is simple. Originally the form was to follow the progress of the story, which would also be reflected in the smaller processes within the composition. In the end the piece has its own shape. I like to think that it's the workings of the imagination that have given the music a life of its own. Somewhere, however, within the music stands The Tower, somewhere there lies a waiting shadow and a creature retracing an endless quest up the winding steps. The Tower of Victory stands in our minds as a monument to man's eternal struggle for perfection. In my title I salute it as the progenitor of a wealth of ideas.
© Martin Dalby