Red drops, scarlet heat started out as a piece I was writing for the Percy Grainger Museum’s annual composition competition*. The terms of the 2002 competition stated that entries should use material from one of a number of set pieces composed by Grainger. One of these works was Grainger’s The Immovable Do which is based entirely around a drone on C.
I wanted to see how I could most expressively use a drone in a vocal/choral work. Taking Walt Whitman’s beautiful but rather chilling ‘Trickle drops’ (from Leaves of Grass) as my text, I worked to create a dramatic piece from fairly limited musical resources. I experimented a little with the addition of an optional glockenspiel part during rehearsals, but ultimately removed this from the work. The overall effect of the work is quite dark, but passionate.
The individual vocal parts should not be difficult for any moderately experienced singer, but the work does require a very stable sense of pitch – not only to maintain the drone, but to correctly place dissonances and leaps.
*It never made it to the competition as the final version did not meet the minimum duration imposed by the competition rules.