The Bayeux Tapestry for Full Orchestra
This thesis, a piece of music scored for full orchestra, draws upon the piece of art commonly known as the Bayeux Tapestry, an immense, medieval embroidery chronicling the history behind the Norman Conquest of England up through the Battle of Hastings in 1066, as extra-musical inspiration. While there are two fragments from the embroidery that are given their own labeled sections, the work does not specifically portray the embroidery scene by scene. Rather, it expresses the overall atmosphere of treachery, despair, drama, horror, brutality, and enigmatic sensuousness encapsulated within the embroidered artwork itself. The piece begins with a violent prologue featuring polyrhythmic percussion, violoncellos and contrabasses playing straight sixteenth notes in their lowest registers, violas and second violins executing screeching harmonics, and the F tuba playing sustained d1's, emulating a horn call. It then transitions into the A section; beginning with a very loud, chaotic passage that juxtaposes rapidly moving upper woodwinds over ponderous brass, lower woodwinds, percussion, and strings, the volume soon plummets to a softer, yet rapid march which expounds upon thematic material exposed earlier. The A section finally hits a frenzied climax and then, through sinister echoes of the opening timpani line across several different instruments, transitions into the B section, based upon the fragment of the tapestry bearing the title "Ubi Unus Clericus et Ælfgyva." This section evokes both the sensuality of the scene between the mysterious, eponymous woman and an unidentified priest, and its enigmatic inclusion between seemingly unrelated events precipitating one of the major depicted battles in the embroidery. After its close, the A' section suddenly begins with a variation of the prologue, leading to a diminution of the first half of the A section in the muted brass, percussion, and strings. The march then returns, again with considerable variation and now a lopsided feel to it, due to the inclusion of 4/8 measures immediately following every 4/4 and 3/4 bar. The piece continues to build intensity until finally it reaches a climax, and then dies away with chimes depicting the ringing of far-away bells. The F tuba returns with its penultimate iteration of the d1, leading into the coda of the piece which is based upon the scene in the embroidery bearing the title "Ubi Harold Sacramentum Fecit Willelmo Duci" where Harold Godwinson swears a holy oath to Duke William of Normandy. The coda begins planted in the key of F# Dorian, but once it reaches what should be its triumphant conclusion on an open fifth, the foundation gives way and the sonority then melts into that of one of the main tetrachords of the piece, a (0134), superimposed upon the same (0134) transposed up a perfect fifth, both of which then collapse into two other important bichords, the Eb/D major seventh between the two tubas and the F#/C tritone found in the rest of the ensemble, followed by a final frenzied attack by the percussion.
Score, Norman Conquest, 1066, Aelfgyva, Tone Poem, Battle of Hastings, History, Medieval, Symphonic
April 4, 2011.
A Thesis Submitted to the College of Music in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Music.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
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