'The work abounds with arresting touches.’ Huddersfield Daily Examiner
2.2.2.bcl.2 - 4231 - timp - perc(2) cyms/susp.cym/tam-t/TD/BD - harp - strings
Full score, vocal score and parts for hire
I. Estrangement – II. Aftermath – Interlude – III. Childhood Beliefs
It might seem perverse to choose to set poetry of the First World War in a work commissioned for the millennium. But we cannot celebrate the twenty first century without absorbing the lessons of the twentieth; and besides, Edmund Blunden (1896 - 1974) was no conventional war poet, even though he spent more time at the front than any of his colleagues. In the midst of the horrors of the battlefield he was able to sustain a remarkable sense of landscape and place: he remained at heart a pastoral poet.
In making these settings I have been particularly concerned to underline the essential gentleness of Blunden. That is not to pretend that there is no darkness: the first poem depicts a bleak war-torn landscape, yet the mood is one of nobility rather than bitterness. The central part is a dance of death, in which the poem's imagery paints an objective picture of war: almost as if removed from personal experience. A short interlude for strings and harp introduces the final part, not explicitly a war poem, but one where a pastoral childhood landscape gradually merges into something like nightmare. I have tempered the awesome vision of Blunden's final stanza by returning to the mood of the beginning, and a murmured memory of the heart-breakingly beautiful fourth verse.
Blunden's (prose) memoirs were called Undertones of War, and in calling this work Aftertones I wanted both to evoke his world, and to suggest an echo from the not so distant past. Aftertones is dedicated to Martyn Brabbins and to the Huddersfield Choral Society.
Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Adrian Smith), 22 May 2000