Day of Honour: Epic Music – Redefinition of a Recent Genre

Research output: Non-textual formComposition


As a principally orchestral music genre, epic music is a new kid on the block, having originated in the 1990s. Its genesis is fascinating, having developed in the very specific crucible of film trailer music. In Chapter 4 of the 'Oxford Handbook of Music and Advertising: A Powerful Hit: The Epic Self,' (2021) James Buhler provides a cogent definition of the genre: 'Epic music aims primarily at a display of power: if it is often aggressive, it is also loud and bombastic, typically deploying not just orchestra but also electric guitars, a battery of percussion, synthesizers reinforcing the orchestra especially the bass, and a choir loudly chanting pseudo-Latin syllables in imitation of Carl Orff's music for Carmina Burana.'

The research process in composing 'Day of Honour' asks the primary research question: can epic music be created that works against the norms of the epic music genre, that emphasises the feminine yet is still recognisable as epic music – the redefinition of a genre?

'Day of Honour' opens with the sound of a countertenor – unique in the genre and that most feminine of male voices with connotations of innocence, purity and fragility; the antithesis of the genre norm. The other principal solo lines in the score are the female voice, the low flutey tenor whistle, solo violin, cor Anglais and solo cello, again, all characteristically gentle or feminine timbres. Also, in antithesis to Buhler's definition there are no electric guitars, no synthesisers and no pseudo-Latin chants.

In removing all of these genre norms, how can 'Day of Honour' possibly sound like an epic track? The techniques deployed to maintain an epic quality emphasise hyper-cinematic ambience: the sense of an enormous sound space which the music inhabits; saturation that heightens small or gentle sounds into more massive sonic events. And yes, a large Scandi choir, but it is wordless, a wash, bringing an influence from the impressionistic sounds of Ravel and Debussy into the epic genre.

The outcome is a new, transformatively different type of epic track, but epic nevertheless.

'Day of Honour' can be experienced at:
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2021


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