La Marche

for brass quintet

Tim Souster

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for brass quintet

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Composer Tim Souster
Year of Composition 1993
Duration ca.15'
Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-ts1lm1


I have long been fascinated by the march as a musical, social and political phenomenon. This is not because my name appeared next to that of Sousa in some reference books, but rather because of the ambivalence of the march itself. On the one hand we have the heady populism of the great revolutionary marches, the wonderful anarchy of the Sienese palios, of Charles Ives and the marching bands of New Orleans. Then there are the great tragic, but still humanistic, marches of Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler and Shostakovich; and at the other end of the spectrum, the tight-lipped rituals of the American and British armies, and finally the nihilistic, Fascist tramping evoked so chillingly in Leni Riefenstahl’s film The Triumph of the Will.

My own march piece could be regarded as a “political entertainment”. Real historical figures are represented, but the music is meant to be enjoyed as an ironically light-hearted phantasy. The musical material stems from two sources; a “march matrix” consisting of a clashing together of five well-known march themes which are gradually distorted and developed by a process of “filtering”. The intervallic proportions for this process of pitch-transposition and tempo-modification are provided by the second “source” – a chord taken from one of my very favourite pieces, Ravel’s La Valse. Hence my title. I could not of course presume to emulate this glorious apotheosis of the waltz, but am simply hoping to provide it with a mildly militaristic companion piece. In this work, the unfortunate performers are called upon to impersonate Margaret Thatcher, Stalin, Che Guevara, Hitler and Mao Tse Tung. This is aided by the use of simple typical props, e.g. hand-bag, beret, tunic, moustache, etc. each player is also called upon to operate an ancillary percussion instrument by means of a foot pedal.

World Premiere: Malvern Festival Theatre, May 31st 1993.

Commissioned by and dedicated to the Fine Arts Brass Ensemble.