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Op. 41 - the bells              

for Soprano and Percussion

(2015-19)

Libretto: Edgar Allen Poe

Language: English

I. Silver Bells!
II. Golden Bells!
III. Brazen Bells!

IV. Iron Bells!
 

Program Notes: The Bells was composed between 2016 and 2019 for soprano Kathleen Roland-Silverstein and percussionist Lynn Vartan and based on Edgar Allen Poe’s posthumous poem The Bells. The set of four poems, which is thought to be penned by Poe in 1848, relies heavily on the idea of onomatopoeia, or “the imitation of sound,” and is said to have been motivated by the death of his wife and inspired by the Fordham University bell tower, which he could hear from his home in New York.  The first song, ‘Silver Bells!,’ opens with a raucous bell call, utilizing the entirety of the percussion setup (vibraphone, glockenspiel and suspended cymbal). As the bells subside, the soprano opens with a declarative interval that pervades the song and soon after, an octatonic scale is introduced, which works as a musical motif throughout the entire song cycle. The next song, ‘Golden Bells!,’ opens with a more tender descending toll and a harmonious call and response between the voice and vibraphone. This bucolic appeal is interrupted by the pervasive scale and walks a careful balance between delicacy and turmoil throughout the song.  ‘Brazen Bells!,’ the third song, utilizes a repeated note, a pedal point, throughout the song which propels the momentum of the compelling text. “What a tale of terror, now, their turbulancy tells!,” Poe rings out, while the sinuous scale morphs between the voice and vibraphone. The final song, “Iron Bells!,” is a culmination of the first three songs, picking elements of each and fusing them into a singular manifestation of Edgar Allen Poe’s literary masterpiece.

Performance History:

-January 28th, 2017; No. 1 & 2 - Satellite Salon-Composition Conjuring; Univ. of S. Utah; Thorley Hall; Cedar City, UT – 7:30PM

George N. Gianopoulos

composer