The Communion of the Hive: A Sanctity Under Shadow

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A moving tribute to nature and our threatened bees. Serene opening and rhythmic evocation of the bees’ “waggle dance,” ending in dissonant uncertainty. Prominent solo clarinet. Level/Grade 5. Wind ensemble.

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Kallman Creates Publications, Composer Daniel Kallman Kallman Creates Publications

Wind ensemble. Duration: 7’30”

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(Northfield High School Band and Honors Art, Northfield, MN; Daniel Kallman conducting)

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Composer’s Notes

This piece was commissioned by the Northfield High School Concert Band, Northfield, Minnesota, under the direction of Mary Williams. It was premiered on April 24, 2017 in Northfield, and was performed again at the Big Nine Music Festival in Red Wing, Minnesota on April 28, 2017.

Composer’s Program Notes

I believe that the primary impulse which leads to artistic expression, particularly in our present time, arises from an emotional response to the world in which we find ourselves, be it the natural world, or the world of current events in human history. The purpose of this new composition for band is on the one hand to celebrate one of the true wonders of nature: the honeybee and its harmonious existence within the hive community. But the composition also addresses the tragic reality of colony collapse disorder: massive die-offs of millions of bees worldwide over the past decade, which sadly continues to this day.

The music follows a loose narrative, with a peaceful pastoral opening the work as if the sun has just emerged on a summer morning and begins to warm a vast meadow of wildflowers. We bask in the enticing variety of colors, sounds and smells until finally our attention is drawn by the entrance of the solo clarinet to an individual honeybee, the first to arrive this morning to this new spot she has discovered, which may be as many as five miles from her hive! She is soon joined by dozens, then hundreds upon hundreds of insects in a harmonious outburst of teeming life as has existed for millennia upon our precious planet.

When the bee returns to the hive, it excitedly communicates the whereabouts of the meadow to other worker bees in an otherworldly phenomenon known as the waggle dance. The music takes on a decidedly different tone reflecting the bizarre and comical nature of the dance by which the bee can indicate not only the precise location of the meadow, but also what kinds of flowers to expect to find there!

Once her story is told, hundreds of worker bees exit the hive and fly to the spot to collect the pollen from this new source. But it is upon their return home that our attention and emotion is refocused on the dilemma with which the honeybee is now confronted: a world with decreasing habitat for pollinator flowers, and where there exist other serious barriers to bee health such as mites and pesticides. Increasingly chromatic and dissonant, the music finally fades away unsettled, mirroring the fact that we don’t know what the future holds for the honeybee, whose dilemma is a microcosm of the perils that nature now faces on several fronts.

I am indebted to Gary Anderson for his willingness to step in and play the solo clarinet part which was originally intended for Anders Peterson, who would have been a junior in the band this year but transferred to the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan to pursue an intensive study of his instrument. And kudos to the dedicated students of the NHS Concert Band who have sunk their musical teeth into this for the past couple months in order to bring it to life. Finally, a gracious thank you to Mary Williams who was the sole vision behind this project, and whose concern and compassion for the honeybee will hopefully compel each of us to do what we can to ensure its survival.

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Score, Set of parts, Set of parts (masters via email), Set of parts (masters via US mail)