"Alembic" - Irish Youth Wind Ensemble
Alembic was commissioned in 1992 by William Halpin for the Dublin Institute of Technology College of Music Wind Band who gave it its first performance in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin, in March 1993. In 1997 it was selected by the international jury for performance (by the RNCM Wind Band) at the ISCM World Music Days held in Manchester the following year.
An alembic was a retort used for distillation in mediaeval alchemy, and by extension means anything that distils or purifies. My piece sets out from one of the rawest of musical raw materials © the ascending horn©call of minor sixth/perfect fifth/major third © and transforms it in a series of climaxes framing a central "alembicated" (complex, intricate) passacaglia. Although written for student players the piece makes fully professional demands on its large ensemble, which includes a considerable battery of percussion instruments and two groups of trumpets placed stereophonically at opposite sides of the performing space.