No 15 Battle Hymns (2002)

For Male voice, Percussion and Piano

Commissioned by: Big Bang Festival, with financial support from the Netherlands Fund for the Creation of Music
First Performance: Romain Bisschof, Arnold Marinissen & Peter Adriaansz, 2002, Theater Lantaren/Venster, Rotterdam
Instrumentation: Male voice, Percussion and Piano.
Duration: 27’
Special Features: the voice must also play percussion; the percussionist and pianist must also sing.

Score samples

Info/Program note:
Written during the winter months of 2001, Battle Hymns, for 3 multi-functional musicians was specifically geared towards the amazingly versatile Dutch percussionist Arnold Marinissen. The piece, as such, is closely linked to several peculiarities akin to his specific skills, the main of which are not only a seemingly inexhaustible independence of each and every bodily limb, but also an ability to use his voice in a controlled way at the same time. This idea of ‘multi-functionality’ soon became one of the backbones of this piece and eventually found itself transported to each of the three musicians involved: besides asking the percussionist to sing, the singer also becomes a percussionist and the pianist, eventually, a singer.

Battle Hymns consists of three movements, each exploring different ensemble-settings, metric relationships and sound worlds. The first of the three movements is split into two parts (‘ensemble 1’, for all three musicians, and ‘piano, snares and super-ball’, for piano and percussion). The second movement consists of two ‘solo pieces’, one for the percussionist (‘drums & snare’) and the other for the singer, singing over and into a large temple-bowl and accompanied by piano pizzicatos (‘singer, temple-bowls and piano-strings’). The final of the three movements (‘ensemble 2 - revolutionary song’) stars all three players again, each one now fully occupied.

Besides dealing with the afore-mentioned topics, Battle Hymns along the way also developed a secondary subplot as I was working on it. Unlike any of my other works, which mostly lack narrative or theatrical motivations, an imaginary storyline arose of three deserters from the French Legion, lost in the deep African jungle, chopping their way through a dense overgrowth while dreaming of the French revolution. And losing their memory or any ability to verbalize in the process.

Given its generally low scoring and the Legionnaire subplot, the piece thus has the sad distinction that it is the only one of my works which can definitely only be performed by males.