for nine players

Jeffrey Holmes

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for nine players

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Composer Jeffrey Holmes
Year of Composition 2015
Duration ca.21'


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Student Difficulty

Categories (all composers)
Catalogue ID ce-jh1h1


The title “Hagall” comes from the Old-Norse Runic symbol for hail (as in hailstorm). “Hagall” is the first of the “Winter” runes, implying a not yet fully-frozen landscape, but instead a period of transition and struggle. The individual runic symbol is accompanied by an ancient elemental poem in three parts, which creates the large-scale structure of the piece:

Cold Grain (Earth),
Shower of Sleet (Sky),
Sickness of Serpents (Sea).

There are several references to “primordial” instruments, including: the contra-bass clarinet imitating a Nordic lure, the French and English horns imitating primitive cow horns, non-pitched percussion instruments, various “non-octave” scales and complex compound-rhythms, and a variety of microtonalities including several uses of the overtone series.

Hagall is an expressive and dramatic representation of a turbulent Scandinavian winter storm set in one large mythical arc, comprised of constantly varied landscapes of intense moods and esoteric images, creating an epic journey of death.