for Eb trumpet and piano
This piece was composed for my colleagues and friends, trumpeter Michael Tunnel and pianist Meme Tunnell. Tireless advocates of contemporary music, they are constantly commissioning and performing new works. I became very interested in writing a piece for them after hearing them play several times and especially after Mike gave a wonderful series of performances of an earlier work of mine, Músico en la nada.
That work is moody, quiet, introspective and requires several different mutes. Accordingly, this piece is loud, brash, hard-edged and uses no mutes at all. I noticed as I was writing This hard, gem-like flame…this ecstasy, that I was using many major thirds. I also realized that I written several pieces recently in which this interval was important, so I decided to see how far I could push it without-I hope-sacrificing interest or excitement. So…in this simple five-part form (ABABA), all the A sections are based almost exclusively on this interval, with the B sections providing the necessary intervallic contrast. Because of the consistent use of the major third, the A sections also frequently employ whole-tone sonorities.
The title, as are most of my titles, is “borrowed” (a polite term for stolen) from another source. It came to me in an even more convoluted manner than usual: it is lifted from a description of the poet William Morris by Walter Pater, as quoted by Peter Ackroyd in an article in The New Yorker. The full quotation is “To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.” I have omitted the rather banal conclusion, and concentrated instead on the startling intensity of the central image.
recorded by Michael Tunnell, trumpet, and Meme Tunnell, piano; and La luz es como el agua recorded by the Louisville Brass Ensemble, conducted by Frederick Speck