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Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn

7 min.


(full recording available on Soundcloud)

Calls of close and away is a set of pieces for woodwind quintet that collage fragments of hunting calls from the 18th-century French countryside and bugle calls from 20th-century military life. The first piece, Le vol ce lest (“the flight is on”), uses fragments of a hunting call played on a trompe de chasse when tracks of the quarry have been sighted.

There are, perhaps, a few things you should know...

My parents had a friend who lived on a farm outside of town. She was passionate about gun rights, environmentalism, game hunting, troop support, wildlife preservation, and pacifism. Her husband died suddenly after his car fell on him while he was making repairs. She owned two dogs.

The Paris Conservatoire Museum owns a trompe de chasse that is 4.54m (14.9ft) in length, in the key of D, which was wound by the Paris horn-maker Lebrun into a coil that is 55cm in diameter so it would be small enough to be carried on horseback during a hunt.

Musicologist Achim Hofer identifies three different types of musical military calls — signals (played by one instrument alone to issue orders to troops), fanfares (played in unison rhythm by two or more similar instruments to impart information or as ceremonial music), and flourishes (played by an ensemble for purely aesthetic purposes).

Louis XIII of France enjoyed the chasse aux toiles, a form of hunting where animals are herded into a small area which is then enclosed using tall canvas screens. He came to power after exiling her mother, Marie de’ Medici, for mismanagement of the kingdom and her never-ending political scandals. Both she and her son were generous supporters of the arts.

The earliest German "marching bands" originally included instruments of the modern woodwind quintet, but could not be used for marching as they would not be heard above the sound of the soldiers’ feet. The use of bands during military marches in Europe was introduced only as a result of several Turkish military defeats, the peace offerings of which included mehters – bands of slave soldiers who played reed, brass, and percussion instruments that were much louder than their European counterparts.

The fragments of Le vol ce l'est used in Calls of close and away are played by the horn in their original key of D major, appearing first in the authentic order and subsequently out of sequence, and in smaller segments, until only single notes remain.

The US National Guard, part of the country’s volunteer civilian reserve military service, currently maintains 51 marching bands. In 2005, as many as 46,838 National Guard troops were deployed to Louisiana for relief efforts following Hurricanee Katrina, comprising almost 40% of first responders. That same year 183,366 members were called to active duty in the Middle East, the largest percentage of National Guard involvement of any war in US history (44% in Iraq, 55% in Afghanistan).

Most familiar hunting calls were compiled and composed by the Marquis Marc Antoine Dampierre, employed by Louis XV in 1727. Dampierre and his contemporaries utilized calls on the trompe de chasse for everything from gathering hunters, to alerting them that a stag has fooled its stalkers, to summoning dogs in order to feed them the animal’s leftover body parts.

On the same day that my classmates were protesting NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign in Kosovo, an army recruiter stopped me in the school hallway and encouraged me to take a computerized test that would tell me whether I would do well in the military. Although I scored highly, I was deemed unfit for service. The next year, one of my friends who walked out during the NATO protest became the first woman from our town to enroll in officer training at West Point Academy.

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