Listening Log

Lake of Tenderness – Ben Hollings

Whilst on Holiday, I listened to a stunningly mesmerising piece of music called “Lake of Tenderness” (Lacus Lenitatis) This piece evokes a real sense of zen. The beautifully contemporary chords remind me of the progressions used by Morten Laurdisen in his tranquil meditation “O Magnum Mysterium.”

The piece starts with a faint percussion effect, created by a contrasting vibraphone and marimba gliss. In the second bar the cornets announce a chord of Bb whilst the back row cornets drone the notes F and C. These notes are the dominant of the Bb and the composer avoided using the medient (A) to avoid the clash with the Bb chord. The repiano starts the tantalising I-V pattern which occurs throughout the composition. This creates a delicate and sensitive pulse throughout the piece and utilises the hierarchy of beats.

The next bar progresses on to an F sus 2. This highlights the G which is going to come along as the dominant of C (the key the piece is written in) in the introduction the music is scored lightly as to ease us in to the feeling of tenderness. The dynamic is a polite piano and crescendos no louder than Mezzo Piano in an embrace wave of warm sound. it’s a musical hug!

Rehearsal mark “A” welcomes section A. This is an ensemble with a subtle melody performed on 2 Euphoniums. The Harmony is built as the chord of F/D for two bars before progressing on to an Amsus4 (includes the D which is the third of the Bbsus2)up to the Bbsus2, to the Gm7 (dominant of C) which takes us to Csus4. the 4th of the C is the F which ends the phrase as a luxurious F9 chord. The music is scored quite thickly at this point and the dynamic is Mezzo Forte which builds a slight sense of excitement before returning back to the peaceful B section which introduces a simple and lyrical cornet solo.

At Section B (rehearsal mark B) we hear the first melody played as a cornet solo. The scoring is minimal and the Solo horn takes over the I-V pulse. The scoring is so reduced so that the cornet can be heard clearly over the accompaniment. The harmony whilst still contemporary is much less reduced. Hollings has only written the crucial notes of each chord.

at rehearsal mark C we hear a extended refrain from the introduction except Ben has added depth by using the Bb bass in a lower register. This adds a refreshing contrast to the reprise whilst still remaining subtle and un-offensive. The trombone takes over the melody and the soprano highlights the melody – adding a little zest to the trombone sound. An exciting mechanism that I would be interested to explore. The key still remains ambiguous as Ben Hollings explores the relative A minor in bar 24. With the use of the Bbsus6/F we hear the G which brings us back on track in to the dominant major key. In the last 4 bars of D the reprise has been extended to bridge us in to D.

At rehearsal mark D we are taken right back own to the most minimal scoring. there is a recurring theme of building and fading, as in the pulse of the I-V figures played throughout the piece. This is a nod to the movement of the water in a lake as it ripples through its existence. As the soprano takes over the I-V-I figure in bar 40 the listener can sense that something big is about to build. The band builds using the similar progression as the introduction to its climax at letter E.

In letter E the band is in a forte. The cornets play the melody In tutti. Another mechanism Ben Hollings Used that I really like is the alternating notes played in the euphonium section. This adds to the pulse. The band is not to force this part out as sostenuto and legato are instructed. The horn section takes over the I-V-I pattern just before the band decrescendos 4 bars before F.

At letter F the harmony is reduced and only the cornets voice the whole chord as a section. As the harmony dies out some more so does the complexity of the chords. the end of the piece we hear a C/F chord only played from the baritones down. a solitary image of the moon, as the composer mentions.

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