Commissioned by the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) as part of The ANAM Set (2021), funded by the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund – an Australian Government Initiative.
First performance by Eve McEwen (horn) and Louisa Breen (piano), The ANAM Set Festival, Australian National Academy of Music, Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne, 15 May 2022
I suppose I might have called this piece Dover Beach, since it’s a response to aspects of that famous poem by Matthew Arnold (1822-88). In the end, though, there were more ‘confused alarms’ than ‘calm’ seas in my seven-minute piece, and I wanted to draw attention to them.
The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Confused Alarms was commissioned by the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) as part of The ANAM Set (2021), funded by the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund – an Australian Government initiative. It was composed for Eve McEwen, to whom it is dedicated.