The Song of the Bell

The Song of the Bell was commissioned by Stadtmusikkapelle Wilten, from Innsbruck, Austria, and was premiered by them on 21st April 2012, conducted by Peter Kostner.

The piece is based on Friedrich Schiller’s epic 1798 poem Das Lied von der Glocke (The Song of the Bell), which is one of the most famous (and, at 430 lines, one of the longest) in German literature. The poem draws a close parallel between human life and the process of casting a bell, something Schiller knew intimately from childhood, as his family lived close to the bell foundry in Ludwigsburg.

The poem compares the joys and sorrows of human existence with the various stages of bell production and meditates on the contrasting moments in life when bells play an important part, from celebrating civic events, raising an alarm to the different roles of church bells.

The Song of the Bell is in three continuous sections which highlight these events:-

1) LIFE CELEBRATION

opens with two offstage horns accompanied by a variety of bells and focuses on those moments in life when bells celebrate joyous occasions. Schiller, for example, compares the birth of a child with the beginning of the casting process.

2) SOUND THE ALARM

introduces a faster tempo and describes the use of a bell as a method of warning the population of fire, flood or even war.

3) JOURNEY’S END

opens with a funeral knell but grows into a joyous evocation of the heavenly afterlife, turning the opening horn calls into a celebratory fanfare