Resurgam, Eric Ball.

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Redhorn, Aug 16, 2005.

  1. Redhorn

    Redhorn New Member

    Anyone know the full 'story' behind the piece?...
  2. imthemaddude

    imthemaddude Active Member

    Richard Evans told us all about it three years ago at summer school but unfotunatly the only bit I sort of remember is it being a passage from the bible (take note of its subtitle) and the bars with a a loud note and rest for the whole band is the knocking on the door and then the rising again at the end.
  3. Redhorn

    Redhorn New Member

    Just found this article on the net, so can answer my own question! :clap:


    A Tone Poem
    Eric Walter John Ball (October 31, 1903 - October 1, 1989)

    (Program notes by Robert Getz)

    The word resurgam comes from the Latin word resurgo, meaning "to rise ag=
    ain, to appear again, to lift oneself". Resurgam means "I shall rise ag=
    ain", the most intimate and personal form of the word. =

    A World War II war correspondent coined the now famous phrase: "It is =
    a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma". Not surprisingly, thi=
    s piece written by "brass banding's mystic" (born on All Hallows E=
    ve) fits this description perfectly -- a riddle wrapped in a mys=
    tery inside an enigma.

    Several things point to this conundrum. Eric was not in the habit of de=
    dicating his works, yet he dedicated Resurgam to his wife's younger siste=
    r, Elsa, with no explanation. Some say it was because the piece came to =
    him during the time of his struggles over resigning from the Army, the=
    tragic illness which took Elsa and which perhaps led him deeper int=
    o spiritualism -- which may have led him to Resurgam. Perhaps, but we wi=
    ll never know. Another mystery is that Ball, a former Salvation Arm=
    y Officer, elected to use text from the ancient apocryphal book o=
    f The Wisdom of Solomon, rather than the more accepted Scriptures. I=
    s the choice of text tied to his bitterness over being pressured to resig=
    n his Army commission? If Not, why did he select so pointed a text from =
    "secret" and sometimes doubted scriptures when equally convincing or supe=
    rior texts can be found in the more universally accepted books? There =
    are musical riddles as well. For example, what does the hammer=
    ing figure in the development section mean? First there is one note, aga=
    in, then three, then four, one, one then six . . . why? Some say "fate k=
    nocking", while others are mystified that it seems not to fit at all and =
    yet somehow strangely belongs -- a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an =

    There is more. Little is known about the creation of the piece. The c=
    omposer stated to this writer that he did not remember doing it at all. =
    This is confirmed by Peter Cooke in the biography, Eric Ball -- the man a=
    nd his music. However, the piece didn't magically appear on paper. Cl=
    early, memory nohstanding, much thought went into the writing, th=
    e inclusion of quoted tunes or motifs, even the selection of an obscure =
    Latin title. The opening phrase is a modified quote from Ball's vocal =
    piece "The Awakeners", a Salvation Army Training Session song: "Awake=
    thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead". Interestingly, t=
    hese opening notes also fit the first phrase of the selected text =
    from the Apocrypha if the word "but" is omitted.

    "But the souls of the upright are in the hands of God, =

    And no torment can reach them.
    In the eyes of foolish people they seemed to die,
    And their decease was thought an affliction,
    And their departure from us their ruin,
    But they are at peace".

    The tone poem has five basic elements which are presented as in the foll=
    owing outline: A B A C D E A D. Considering the subject matter, one i=
    s left to ponder whether or not Ball was aware of the word spelled=
    by the second half of the form outline. Is this a part of the mystery, =
    or just coincidence?

    The composer has clearly stated that there was no intent to specifically=
    tie any text to any musical ideas, but this rather should be left to eac=
    h listener to divine for themselves. Such statements nohstanding, B=
    all was as much a literalist in selecting musical themes that directly po=
    rtray text and ideas as was Bach. Consequently, it is not out of t=
    he realm of possibility, in fact likely, that he had thoughts of specific=
    texts (at least in the back of his mind) as he wrote various sections of=
    Resurgam. Regardless, this writer has conducted and played the piece=
    many times and listened many more and finds some possible conject=
    ures useful when searching for further individual access to the spirit of=
    the piece. =

    The piece begins with what has been called the "Faith" motif (theme A). =
    This is very solemn but hopeful music, but which ends questioningl=
    y, almost as though the players are singing, unconvinced, a quote f=
    rom the apocryphal text: "and no torment can reach them". This is abrupt=
    ly interrupted by a driving, conflict-ridden section filled with =
    questioning and wailing (B), which is repeated. The faith motif (A)=
    returns followed by even more questioning and doubting, reiterating over=
    and again the uncertain entreaty "and no torment can reach them . . . r=
    each them . . . reach them". This leads to a cornet solo filled=
    with deep despair (C). Once again, the words from the text seem to fit =
    emotionally and are easily adapted musically (especially the second phras=
    e): "And their decease was thought an affliction, and their departure fro=
    m us their ruin . . ." However the composer in his score notes (and re=
    hearsals) offered the telling suggestion of thinking "death took my love =
    away". Either way it is very tortured music. This theme is tran=
    sferred to the euphoniums accompanied by a cornet obbligato. A =
    brief euphonium recitative evolves into a soaring melody of hope (D)=
    =2E This is interrupted by sinister forces represented by the=
    lower instruments and turmoil and bitter conflict are the stuff of this=
    section (E). We hear a battle between the upper voices seeming to =
    try to triumphantly shout "But they are at peace" against the sinister f=
    orces of evil and death in the lower voices. Cascading chromatics, the =
    pounding or "fate knocking" motif, and the insistent Dies irae ("day of w=
    rath", from the 13th century mass for the dead) -- are the elements of th=
    is section. Finally as the last pounding of fate dies, distant bells to=
    ll, and the "death" motif (borrowed from the composer's own Exodus) follo=
    wed by a crash of the gong ominously ends this section. The faith motif =
    (A) introduces the return of the soaring euphonium melody of hope (D), wh=
    ich is now wonderfully fulfilled and transformed from hope to promise of =
    eternal life in the resurrection. As the music lifts us beyond life, cou=
    ld there perhaps be a suggestion of the composer's own setting of "In the=
    Secret of Thy Presence"? All questions are transfigured into quiet =
    "amens", underscored by a final reminder of the faith which began our pi=

    Resurgam was not available to Army bands until January, 1967 almost twen=
    ty years after it was written. The great British composer/conductor, =
    Elgar Howarth, states: "The spirituality of Resurgam as much as its super=
    b scoring has made it the most performed and best loved piece in the band=
    repertoire". It was the Belle Vue test piece in 1950. Eric Ba=
    ll conducted the fourth place band and admitted that the first place winn=
    er, Harry Mortimer, understood the piece and found more depth in it th=
    an he, the composer! Such a piece and such a man may never be encount=
    ered again until we all experience Resurgam. Amen.
    chingchongchew likes this.
  4. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    The score is headed by an extract from The Wisdom of Solomon from the Apocrypha.

    It's something like:

    "The Souls of the Righteous are in the hands of God, but no torment shall touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seem to have died, but they are at peace."

    ....but I'm afraid I'm paraphrasing from a Radio 3 broadcast I recorded in 1987! it's probably best to look it up ;)

    Edit: Oops, missed the boat on that one!
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2005
  5. jingleram

    jingleram Active Member

    Taken from cd notes:

    This work by Eric Ball, the title of which can be translated 'I shall rise again', illustrates the sense of contrast and conflict expressed in a quotation from the ancient Book of Wisdom.

    'The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died; their departure was accounted to be their hurt, and thir journeying away from us to be their ruin: but they are in peace.

    The work does not set out to describe this passage nor to tell any particular story. Rather, it allows the listener to contemplate the fact that what may appear to be pain and loss is often gain and victory in a spiritual sense. Even from death, 'I shall rise again'.
  6. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    OK, so I missed a bit out...not bad after 18 years :D
  7. jingleram

    jingleram Active Member

    Lol alot better than me! I last read it about 7 months ago, and could only remember the 1st line!!! :rolleyes:
  8. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    Aren't there other Eric Ball compositions that are in a similar vein from the SA Cannon - I'm sure I've played some faded, ilicit photocopies of pieces like Resurgam in the (distant) past??

    Incidentally, he did a very good arrangement of Easter Hymn from Cavelera Rusticana that was (as far as I know) never published. I BELIEVE Winwood Music (was Rosehill - I think they're call Winwood now) have got the originals.... We recorded it, which is how I know it.

    Resurgam memory: playing the shot notes in Winchester Cathederal when Chris, the percussionist, (who's now an eminant "pro"/freelance in the symphony orchestra world!) lost a stick and we could hear it trundling and clunking down the steps. Hard not to giggle :)

    (no, I can't spell some of the words I've wanted to write!)
  9. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    The words of the first two lines of the psalm fit the notes perfectly...
  10. Bariman

    Bariman Member

    "Exodus" (SA Festival series 117 Published 1937) contains a number of passages that are similar to Resurgam.
  11. drummerboy

    drummerboy Member

    In fact, more accurately, Resurgam contains some passages directly from Exodus. And the end sounds like 'In The Secret of Thy Presence', and the beginning is taken from his sessional song 'The Awakeners' (If I remember correctly!)
  12. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    More accurately than what?

    Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 3

    1: But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them.
    2: In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction,
    3: and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.
    4: For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.
    5: Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
    6: like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.
    7: In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble.
    8: They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever.
    9: Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.
    10: But the ungodly will be punished as their reasoning deserves, who disregarded the righteous man and rebelled against the Lord;
    11: for whoever despises wisdom and instruction is miserable. Their hope is vain, their labors are unprofitable, and their works are useless.
    12: Their wives are foolish, and their children evil;
    13: their offspring are accursed. For blessed is the barren woman who is undefiled, who has not entered into a sinful union; she will have fruit when God examines souls.
    14: Blessed also is the eunuch whose hands have done no lawless deed, and who has not devis........................etc

  13. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I think drummerboy was referring to bariman's comment about the similarity between parts of Eric Ball's early (1937) tone poem "Exodus" and "Resurgam". There are links between the idea of the Israelites coming out of captivity in Egypt and that of "rising again" in "Resurgam", and the "Death Motif" from the former features prominently in the latter.
  14. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Thanks for clarifying Peter - it's been one of those days :hammer
  15. Bariman

    Bariman Member

    Doh, I knew what I meant!
  16. fluk

    fluk New Member


    interesting thread. was eric a freemason perchance?:cool:
  17. What makes you ask that Fluk? As far as I am aware, there is no connection between Resurgam and Freemasonry.