Written in memory of two young men that lost their life too soon and inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem, Time’s Uncertain Wing takes the listener through several stages of grief. Gillingham effectively moves us from sadness and remorse to shock and denial to hope and remembrance.
Genre: Band | # of Players: Standard
Level: 3 | Duration: 6:20
Bb Clarinet 1
Bb Clarinet 2
Bb Clarinet 3
Alto Saxophone 1
Alto Saxophone 2
Bb Trumpet 1
Bb Trumpet 2
Bb Trumpet 3
F Horn 1/2
F Horn 3/4
Percussion 1 (Bells)
Percussion 2 (Vibraphone, Crash Cymbals)
Percussion 3 (Marimba [4-oct.], Chimes)
Percussion 4 (Suspended Cymbal, Tam-Tam)
Time's Uncertain Wing was commissioned by The University of Missouri for Ste. Genevieve High School Band, John Mooney, conductor, and The University of Missouri Symphonic Band, Brian Silvey, conductor, in memory of Sean Radcliff and Jeremy Porter, both who died in an automobile accident. Sean Radcliff was a former member of the Ste. Genevieve High School Band. The title of the work comes from the second line of the final stanza of the poem, "If you were coming in the fall", by Emily Dickinson:
But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time's uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state it sting.
The poem is about love, separation, and time. The concept of "time's uncertain wing" seemes quite aprapo for our feelings of grief when loved ones are taken unexpectedly from us. The element of time is paramount in that we are never certain about how much time we are given in this life. The work begins elegiac in mood, hovering around clustered harmonies in F minor. The clarinets sing a remorseful melody which intensifies and then comes to rest in F minor. A faster section ensures with a driving ostinato in the keyboard percussion, bassoons and tenor sax with dark sustained clusters in the low brass and woodwinds. An oboe sighs above the texture. Grieving is comprised of "stages" and this stage is one of shock and denial. The brass enter with a mournful chorale-like figure against an ever-constant ostinato which is now joined by flutes. Again the intensity subsides and clarinets continue the ostinato over which a solo alto saxophone sings a haunting epitaph. Clarinets continue the ostinato and the mood begins to brighten with a change in mode to F major with the horns singing a song of hope and remembrance, growing and then modulating into C major and cadencing gloriously with full band, bells and chimes. Then, as if rising to heaven, there is a modulation into D major which subsequently subsides with the woodwinds singing the first phrase of the "hope and remembrance" melody one last time and the low brass and woodwinds resting peacefully below.