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The Descending Dragon: Four Portraits for Band

The Descending Dragon: Four Portraits for Band

Cummings, Barton


  • Ensemble: Concert Band
  • Genre: Modern Classical
  • Grade: 5
  • Duration: 22.0 minutes
  • Catalog Number: AOS200

The title of this work is taken from a Vietnamese legend.
Long ago when their forefathers were fighting foreign invaders from the north, the gods from heaven sent a family of dragons to help defend their land. This family of dragons descended upon what is now Ha Long bay and began spitting out jewels and jade. Upon hitting the sea, these jewels turned into the various islands and islets dotting the seascape and formed a formidable fortress against the invaders. The locals were able to keep their land safe and formed what is now the country of Vietnam. The dragon family fell so much in love with this area for its calm water and for the reverence of the people of Vietnam that they decided to remain on earth. Mother dragon lies on what is now Ha Long and where her children lie is Bai Tu Long. The dragon tails formed the area of Bach Long Vi known for the miles of white sandy beaches of Tra Co peninsula.
The four movements of this work are not an attempt to portray this legend, but were inspired by four beautiful photographs of Vietnam.
Movement One, Morning Mist on Xuan Huong Lake, is based on a five note, or pentatonic scale with some passing tones. It is quiet in nature, reflective and has a very brief section that is in a faster tempo.
The second movement, Waltz: Ha Long Bay has a nostalgic air about it and is very simple in nature. It is interesting to note that Vinh Ha Long, or Bay of the Descending Dragon, is often touted by proud Vietnamese as the world's Eighth Wonder.
Movement Three, Early Winter Morning on Hoan Kiem Lake, is a moody, atmospheric affair featuring tone clusters, shifts in tonality and an overall feeling of bleakness often experienced in during the Winter months.
The final movement, The Blackbird, uses a very popular folk song called Song of the Blackbird. This tune has been used by many composers and has numerous settings. Although not a strict set of variations, there is some manipulation of the theme and harmonies through the movement.

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