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"Soldat Tadelos"

Title Soldat Tadelos
ComposerF.G.J. Absil
Instrum.Chamber Group
DateOctober 2005
DurationTotal: 18'25 (3 movements: 7'05 + 6'35 + 4'45)
StyleModal - Atonal
KeyG, Bb, D
TempoVarious (medium - slow - fast)


A musical score excerpt
  • Clarinet in Bb, Bassoon;
  • Trumpet in Bb (Straight, Bucket, Cup and Plunger Mute), Trombone (Straight, Bucket and Plunger Mute);
  • Violin, Double Bass;
  • Percussion (1 player: Bass Drum, Bar Chimes, Bongo's, Cowbell, Ride/Crash/China Cymbals, Hi-Hat, Shaker, Snare Drum, Tambourine, High and Low Tom, Triangle, High and Low Woodblocks).


When a musician friend told me he was playing the suite from L'histoire du soldat (Igor Strawinsky) with his chamber group and asked me whether I could write something for the same instrumentation, I knew I was heading for trouble. No way I could get anywhere near the old master and genius, and also listening to the subtle Rhapsodie à sept by André Jolivet did not raise my confidence.

The only way out was to start sketching and just let go. The result is Soldat Tadelos (never mind the title, just an imperfect palindrome), a piece in three movements and in atonal and modal style.

Mvt. 1: Andante Deciso (88 BPM), Meter: 4/4, Key: G modal, 190 mm (7'05), pp. 1-26.
The opening movement is based on a symmetric 9 pitch scale (Pitch-class Set 9-12), from which both melodic motives (PC Set 4-17 and 6-20) and the harmonic structures (PC Set 5Z-18) were derived. After the deciso opening there is tranquilo polyrhythmic mumbling in m. 9, from which the main motive emerges. From m. 32 onwards this motive is varied and developed, with bridge sections in m. 54-60 and m. 77-84. Then there is a new, energico mood with 16th arpeggios and syncopations. A set of more playful and slightly humorous variations on the main motive start in m. 92, with occasional irregular meters. There is a climax in m. 122-127 and in m. 148-157, and with increasing intensity the movements leads to a coda starting in m. 166 (return of the polyrhythm and mixed with the augmented main motive in imitation). The movement ends in fortissimo with the opening deciso statement.

Mvt. 2: Adagio Tranquilo, (42 BPM), Meter: 3/4, Key: Bb modal, 95 mm. (6'35), pp. 27-38.
The basic idea behind this slow movement is a to feature the Double Bass, Trombone and Violin in contrast to the percussion; as the melodic range goes into the treble range, the percussion goes into the lower register (starting with triangle, ending with tremolo bass drum). The harmonic and melodic material is based on PC Set O6(6-Z4) and O1(6-Z37) which together form a 12-tone series. After the opening 3pt harmony, the double bass takes the first solo (m. 8-13). There is a sarabande-like transition leading to an increase in tension (m. 26-34), after which the solo trombone takes over. There is reminiscences of jazz and blues with plunger trombone and trumpet (note the doo-wah effect in m. 38-41 and m. 47-54), accompanied by pizzicato bass and brushes on snare and hi-hat. This leads to a climax in m. 56-65, after which the violin takes the solo lead. The solo cadenza starts in m. 75 (frequent multiple stops) and finally dies away in the treble range with mumbling tremolos in all instruments in the background.

Mvt. 3: Danse Arabe, Vivace (92 BPM), Meter: 11/8+10/8, Key: D modal, 135 mm. (4'45), pp. 39-63.
The melodic and harmonic material from the closing fast movement is based on PC Set 8-20 (which has octatonic fragments), the rhythmic cell is a grouping of two irregular meters from Arabic music (wazn al-'awis, i.e., 11/8 and wazn aqsaq sama'i, i.e. 10/8). The theme is played first by unisono clarinet and violin (upbeat m. 7) with tambourine percussion, followed by imitative statements (m. 13-28). A marcato bridge leads to a con bravura climax starting in m. 46. A delicate and mysterious meno mosso middle section starts in m. 56, featuring clarinet and bassoon, with the trombone joining in m. 68. The mood becomes energetico in m. 79, after which the original tempo and mood return in m. 87 (with a number of statements of the main theme). A climax is reached in m. 93, with a return of the bridge material in m. 99. The final pick-up of the dance is in m. 114, leading to the coda with its imitation and unisono elements and passionate bongo accompaniment ending in a fortissimo closing rush. There is frequent use of irregular changing meter, which makes this dance unsuited for simplistic youngsters with a passion for breezers and poorly lit disco dance floors.