Tranquil Seas

Tranquil Seas – Suite for Brass Band and Percussion, takes its inspiration from the evocative titles given to the various areas of the Moon’s surface.

Maria (or Mare) are the large plains on the moon’s surface which were created by ancient volcanic eruptions.  They are less reflective than the higher ground on the surface and therefore have a darker, blue-ish appearance when viewed from earth with the naked eye.  Early astronomers mistook this change in colour as actual water and therefore named them seas.

I Sea of Clouds – Mare Nubium

The first movement takes the form of a fanfare and theme and opens full gusto at double fortissimo with a rich descending bass line, fast paced ostinati in solo cornets accompanying a slow paced fanfare from back row cornets, horns and trombones.   This opening is full of space and depth and is a representation of the thick, high domed cumulus clouds.  These clouds disperse and the dancing scherzo of the 1st subject playfully jumps between the instruments as if jumping from cloud to cloud.  The 2nd subject chorale is smoother and richer in texture and gives that feeling of stability and substance.  As this first movement progresses, there is a reprise of these three musical themes, the movement closes with a hair-raising double fortissimo rendition of the chorale.  

II Sea of Tranquility – Mare Tranquillitatis

As the name suggests the second movement is in complete contrast to the first.  Again a sense of open space is present in this movement and the conductor should not be afraid to incorporate the sound of silence in the pause markings, following each of the poly-chords in the opening four bars.  

Low brass, playing sostenuto chords, should give the accompaniment a sense of

weightlessness with the timpani leading into each two bar phrase.  The flugelhorn solo line is written in cross rhythms to add to this sense of buoyancy.  At letter A the roles are reversed with high brass accompanying the Euphonium soloist however the same calmness achieved in the first statement of the melody should be continued. 

Letter B  sees a change in texture with the melodic interest being a richly scored repetitive chords which drift off into the unknown once they have been voiced.  These chords are accompanied by a pedal point played on vibraphone, xylophone, muted bass trombone and tenor trombones each of which play the pedal point at a different octave and a different denomination in time (crochet, Quaver, straight and syncopated) which should give the effect of a slowly revolving moon.  The end of the movement is marked No rallentando and the ensemble should attempt to let the movement appear to drift off into the natural sounds of the concert hall.     

Sea of Tranquillity is the most famous of all the moons, seas as it was the site of the famous Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969.  Just above Tranquillity lies the Sea of Serenity which is linked to Tranquillity by a gully.  It is therefore no coincidence that the end of movement II is linked musically to movement III and if desired it can be played as a single movement by using the solo horn note to tie the two movements together.   

III Sea of Serenity – Mare Serenitatis

The movement starts with the back drop of gently overlapping ostinati in tuned percussion and a sustained horn pedal point.  After the opening material a low brass harmonic motief appears and slowly develops, engulfing the other instruments of the ensemble.  A new theme emerges which is more rhythmic in nature and contains a combination of homophonic writing set against a strong, dance-like ostinato that the gives the movement a sense of movement (an effect similar to the end of the second movement).  This part of the music expresses the relationship of the moon and the earth, constantly revolving in their eternal dance against the back drop of space.  The two main themes of the movement continue to develop and in places merge together, punctuated by short contrasting episodes which gradually builds towards an ecstatic reprise.  Despite the amount of rhythmic content in this movement the pulse remains slow and there should be a lack of urgency in the music so that the calmness and euphoria have an almost hypnotic effect.   

IV Sea of Dreams – Mare Desiderii

The finale of Tranquil Seas is written in the form of a toccata, opening with a thinly scored pianissimo.  The characteristic arpeggio line of the toccata is initially scored on solo cornet however as the movement develops this is passed to almost all the family groups in the ensemble.  The rich sweeping melody line begins on baritones and euphoniums but later includes trombones and tubas as the movement progresses.  The brisk tempo demands that the ensemble shows its ability to be agile and the overall effect of this final movement is only achieved by working together.  This high-octaine final movement brings the complete suite to a dramatic conclusion.


Difficulty: Difficult - Very Difficult

Duration: 00:17:00 (total)

Aviailable from: Prima Vista Musikk Ltd