AS8 Earthrise   for cello solo and 8 flutes


The composition AS8 Earthrise is inspired by Earth as viewed from space. The title is derived from a NASA photo, coded AS8-14-2383, taken by astronauts from the Apollo-8 mission in 1968. As they looked at the ‘Earthrise’ from their spacecraft, they communicated with Earth via radio. These communications included, for example, fragments from the book of Genesis from the Bible, which they read out loud to people on Earth: “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” This represents common themes in my music such as chaos, desolation, darkness and death, or lifelessness in this case.

Musically, it is translated into slowly moving static harmonic fields in the flutes that consist of dense chromatic clusters or wider clusters built up from thirds. Electrifying moments of chromatic movement interrupt these static fields. The cello, in its upper register, either moves in parallel motion, providing a silver lining to the monochrome sound of the flutes, or plays simple yet compelling melodic lines in arpeggiated triads. The cello melodies against the sustained background of the flute harmonies represent a sense of loneliness in space, and a longing for reunification with Earth.

In addition, radio communications of the astronauts with Earth are reproduced through fragments of their dialogues spoken by the members of the ensemble using their instruments as resonators.

AS8 Earthrise was commissioned by Redshift Music Society and

composed for the project ‘The Four Elements’ (Les Quatre elements), presented by Redshift Music Society and ECM+ Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, Véronique Lacroix, Mariève Bock, Montreal’s Ensemble de flûtes Alizé and Vancouver’s Tempest Flute Ensemble.

Review from Normand Babin, Montréalistement, February 15, 2013

“Edward Top a écopé de la tâche moins évidente de chanter la Terre avec l’ensemble Alizé, augmenté cette fois-ci du très beau violoncelle de Mariève Bock. Il a montré une bonne maîtrise de l’instrument, et nous a offert une belle façon de parler ; le parlé-flûté ! Le texte dit à travers les flûtes avec hauteurs de sons et rythmes. Une mélodie, un « sprechgesang »  à la flûte. Frais et rigolo. De très belles textures sonores mettant en contraste la longue mélopée du violoncelle et des « clusters » mouvant aux flûtes, créant une impression de terre meuble et mouvante sous un violoncelle solide. Edward Top, avec AS8 Earthrise nous a donné une œuvre qu’on réentendra avec plaisir.”

“Edward Top was sentenced to the task of having Ensemble Alizé  sing the less obvious praises of the Earth, this time with the addition of the wonderful cellist Mariève Bock. Top showed a solid mastery of the instrument and offered us something to talk about: the flute-talk! Texts are spoken into the flutes, with parallel pitches and rhythms creating a melody: a « sprechgesang » for the  flute. Fresh and funny. The very beautiful sonorous textures form a contrast with the long lamenting cello lines and moving flute « clusters », creating a sense of loose soil underneath a solid cello. With AS8 Earthrise Edward Top has given us a work that we welcome to hear again with pleasure.”

Review from Lucie Renaud, 14 February, 2013

“AS8 Earthrise d'Edward Top permettait le mariage entre l'ensemble de flûtes et le violoncelle solo de Mariève Bock (qui avait collaboré avec Alizé également l'année dernière). Le lyrisme naturel de l'instrument à cordes devient complément idéal aux sonorités plus aériennes. Si l’œuvre semble d'abord se décliner comme concertante, le violoncelle finit par se fondre dans la masse sonore (notamment grâce à un travail sur les harmoniques). Les mouvements chromatiques ascendants et descendants, gestes de plus en plus larges, particulièrement efficaces, s'opposent ici à une structure d'harmoniques presque statiques, rappelant les paysages lunaires évoqués dans certains des textes. Ceux-ci (une transcription des communications radio d’AS8 Earthrise), heureusement fournis, se sont révélés malheureusement impossibles à décrypter, les flûtes agissant plus comme caisses de diffusion que de résonance. Peut-être eut-il fallu qu'ils soient énoncés forte plutôt que mezzo piano?”

“AS8 Earthrise of Edward Top, allowed the marriage between the flute ensemble and cello soloist Mariève Bock (who had also worked with Alizé last year). The natural lyricism of the string instrument proved ideal for the more ethereal sonorities. Where the work at first seems to subside into a concertante the cello eventually blends in with the sound masse (notably thanks to the work on harmonics). The ascending and descending chromatic motions, gestures that are expanding increasingly, are particularly  effective in contrast with an almost static harmonic structure, recalling the lunar landscapes mentioned in some texts. Fortunately, these texts (transcripts of radio communications of AS8 Earthrise), are provided. Unfortunately however, they proved impossible to decipher and the flutes acted  more like resonating loudspeakers. Perhaps he should have written the texts to be louder than mezzo piano?”

Worldpremiere performance of AS8 Earthrise by Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, (flûtes Alizé ) and cellist Mariève Bock, conducted by Véronique Lacroix, in Montreal on February 2013.