Five Bells was written during the summer of 2010 in response to a commission from the Arizona Band and Orchestra Directors Association for the 2011 Arizona All-State Orchestra.
The title, Five Bells, refers to a haunting poem by the Australian poet Kenneth Slessor. The poet, who was also a journalist, wrote the poem in memory of a colleague, an editorial cartoonist, who drowned after he jumped off a ferry and tried to race it to the dock. His colleague’s robust life and tragic death still haunted Slessor after nearly a decade. The poem, with its vivid and dramatic imagery asks “why do I keep thinking about you?” He has no answer. The five bells refer to marine time, the moment when his friend jumped off the ferry. It becomes a symbol of both the moment of death, and the incessant and indifferent passage of time, as opposed to how we perceive time emotionally.
Since Five Bells (for orchestra) was developed from a transcribed piano improvisation, I decided to also make it available as a work for piano solo. Both versions are available from American Composers Alliance.