On a Bat’s Back I do Fly

The title of this piece is taken from Ariel’s song from Act five of Shakespeare’s
“The Tempest”.

Where the bee sucks, there suck I
In the cowslips bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily;
Merrily, merrily shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

The work is virtuosic and especially so for the tuned percussion. However I wanted this element to emerge as a natural expression of Ariel’s fantastic world; bright yet nocturnal and other worldly. The harmonies and use of sustained sonorities in the piano and tuned percussion produce their own sound world, part of the mystery belonging to Ariel and
“The Tempest”.

Those who know Thomas Arne’s setting of this verse may notice the motif to which he sets “..merrily,merrily..” appearing fleetingly in the material. I was attracted to this motif - it seemed so fixed to it’s words, yet this “merrily” comes from a different world, one understood by bats, cowslips and fairies and perhaps only distantly by humankind.

Motifs and phrases are presented, metamorphosed and developed. Predominantly fast tempos are broken up with much slower passages in which the violin and ‘cello are prominent. The second of these episodes leads into a dreamy descending passage. At the end of the piece the piano and percussion extend their florid figurations into fast weaving textures leaving behind the piccolo and violin to evaporate slowly into the ether.

© Eleanor Alberga 2000.