Glass of Royal Blue
For wind octet
The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin currently stands as a mass of stone and metal, twisted in some spots and charred in others, after it was damaged by a bombing raid carried out by the Allied Forces on November 23rd, 1943. Though the building was not damaged beyond reconstruction (a remnant of the spire and the main entrance hall had survived intact), the original spire was left in its state direpair to serve as a reminder of the war, and construction on a new church steps away from the original began in the late 1950s. This new building is and octagonal structure of black concrete honeycomb, and it features stained glass designed by Gabriel Loire, inspired by the glass of the Chartres Cathedral in France. This glass has flecks of ruby red, emerald green, and yellow, but the vast majority of the installment is a rich royal blue.
I have had the privilege of visiting Germany twice in my life: once in 2012 as part of the German American Partnership Program, and once in 2014 as I returned to visit the friends I had made two years prior. While the bulk of my time was spent in Hamburg, I was able to visit Berlin for a weekend that saw on-again-off-again rain showers and skies that would frequently transition between overcast to bright and sunny. I stumbled into the new Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church without knowing what it was, and found it dark and quiet, with candles flickering along the walls. The glass of royal blue was letting in a gentle light that had a rich and muted quality similar to what one might experience at an indoor viewing area of a multi-thousand gallon aquarium tank. Outside, cloud cover over the sun would become thinner or denser, giving the glass an almost pulsating glow, until eventually the clouds parted and the building became host to one of the most vibrant and coloristic views I have ever experienced.
The composition Glass of Royal Blue seeks to translate the feelings of this visual experience to an auditory medium. Instrumentation for this piece is unusual, but has been selected so that all sounds are as naturally round as possible, instead of pointed, edgy, or nasally. I believe this will allow for the generation of a musical soundscape that is both modern and fresh, as well as rich and warm. As the euphonium presents the three-note theme that becomes the basis of the whole work's melodic material, swells of sound in the beginning of the piece are meant to parallel the swells of light that would come through the glass of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. As the piece progresses, it eventually comes to a great loud push, imitating the vibrancy of the scene when the light was in full-force. From there, the composition dies away, not all at once, but in more gradual swells, and returns to the muted, darkened state the piece began in.
Glass of Royal Blue was commissioned by Timothy Clasby, and was premiered April 14, 2019