Long to Reign Over Us – (Trombone & Live Electronics)

June 16, 2017

Composed as part of the “Composing for …” scheme that Psappha Ensemble runs in Manchester – U.K. “Long to Reign Over Us” was written in 2016 -2017. The piece explores conceptual ideas of how to use “speech” as musical structures while also exploring a personal search in how to create a political statement in contemporary music. For this piece, I decided to use different political materials that I found to be contradictory about the United Kingdom’s immigration policy and current social discussion ignited by Brexit.

In 2016 the famous referendum vote in the U.K. resulted in the country’s exit from the European Union, unfortunately, it also triggered bigotry and hate-related crimes that I was unlucky to witness firsthand during my stay in Edinburgh. This pushed me into researching official political statements from MPs, speeches from Queen Elizabeth and audio/video recordings of different protests, debates, and interviews in the U.K. I was becoming interested in the incongruent views of the public. Misinformation and a sort of fluid, changing history in which the U.K. and other first world countries have been somehow portraited as the victims of an invasion of refugees that “do not belong” shocked me. It was as if a complete part of history was deleted and modified to describe the former colonial/imperial societies as saviors and even having a “partnership” with their colonies. The imperial societies turn into poor helpless victims of a struggling third world that fights to survive.

Knowing what I wanted to talk about I decided to start looking for materials. These included writings and transcripts by J. Ruskin, J. Vogel, Joseph Chamberlain and William Greg. Materials also included the audio recordings of the Queen of England’s speech for the celebration of the “Commonwealth Day”. Finally, I decided to look for footage on youtube of interviews, news stories, and opinions. Once I had some of the materials I planned out a way of working with them.

The trombone is a very interesting instrument. It has an important role in contemporary music as many composers and performers dared to push its boundaries. It has also an interesting background in more theatrical pieces like Cage’s piece for trombone or Erickson’s “The General”. Knowing this, I was sure that this instrument will allow me to compose the piece that I had in mind and help me look for narratives and styles of conception that I had not yet explored.

The composition process started after defining the materials to be used. I decided to follow a TEXT to MUSIC map that would allow me to use the different types of primary mediums. This short schematic approach was as follows:

Text ⟶ Rhythm
Rhythm ⟶ Vocalizing
Vocalizing ⟶ Pitches
Pitches ⟶ Melodic Contour