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Smolka: Blue Bells or Bell Blues
for orchestra

World première September 30, 2011, Cologne, Philharmonie
WDR-Sinfonieorchester Köln, cond. Emilio Pomàrico


One of many amazing elements which man can observe when listening to church bells is caused by their swinging. Usually after strike the pitch of each bell slides a microtone down and then, more gradually, back. I found fascinating to transfer this pitch behavior to orchestra chords, especially to woodwinds.
When sketching out this piece, I spent two months at the seaside. A cantus firmus of my stay was an enchanted observing the wavy sea. Maybe that is why my bells became blue.
Blue bells – bell blues. It is not only play with replacing words and their sense, but most of all listening to their sound. So many “l”-s! The sound of “l” is round and smooth like the sea waves. The “b” is round and blunt as well, but able to hit and tumble – like a surf. And long “ue” is like wind.
This score asks the players to leave the save ground of tempered tuning and to step to the “interstellar space” of microtones. In most cases my reason is to breathe new beauty into the old overused harmonies such as A minor.
(Martin Smolka)