Premiered April 3rd, 2018 by members of the Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Thomas A. Blomster, music director,
at the University of Wyoming Concert Hall in Laramie, WY, USA.
Percussion – Xylophone, Temple Blocks (5), Snare Drum, Toms (5), Suspended Cymbals
Chase Jordan’s (b. 1998) work for pierrot ensemble, Crimson (2018), is third in a collection of compositions based on poems from Stephen Crane’s collection The Black Riders and Other Short Lines. This work both serves as a narrative retelling of poem, “There was Crimson Clash of War,” and as an emotional response to the poem.
The composer has chosen his instrumentation with care, opting for only the bass clarinet as opposed having the clarinet player play both Bb clarinet and bass clarinet, serving to darken the sound of the ensemble as well as to provide depth within the bottom of the ensemble’s range. The percussion is chosen in a way that provides two contrasting sets: a militaristic set of percussion comprising snare drum and orchestral toms, instruments that remind the listener of a military band’s percussion; and a combination of temple blocks, suspended cymbal, and xylophone, creating a soundscape that can provide both gestural dialogue and harsh punches of sound.
The composition works from a loose ternary form, beginning with a harsh, clamorous soundscape which seems to attack the listener with multiple sets of metric emphases throughout the ensemble. This is followed by a middle section which begins with a duet between the bass clarinet and piano and slowly expands to include the rest of the ensemble growing from “lands turned black and bare” to the screaming of women and babes. A militaristic percussion solo, instead of answering the why of war, leads back into the chaos and clashes of war in the works recapitulation and finale.
There was Crimson Clash of War
– Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
There was crimson clash of war.
Lands turned black and bare;
Babes ran, wondering.
There came one who understood not these things.
He said, “Why is this?”
Whereupon a million strove to answer him.
There was such intricate clamour of tongues,
That still the reason was not.
First published in The Black Riders and Other Lines, Copeland and Day, 1895.