Sirens from Everywhere
8 trumpets in Bb or C (score shows Bb)
Tara Simoncic, Flexible Orchestra
Downtown Baltimore boasts three large, active hospital networks, the most notable being the Johns Hopkins Medical Center on the hill in East Baltimore. Closer to downtown proper is Mercy Medical Center, slightly smaller in scope but directly adjacent to the central business district. On the other side of the city, close to West Baltimore, sits the University of Maryland’s Medical Center, a large operation that serves as UM’s base of operations for all health and medicinal-related studies at the university. All three of these medical centers lie within 2 miles of each other, a staggeringly close proximity that seems much larger in person, especially to those living in either the downtown area or the Mt. Vernon neighborhood. What this proximity creates is an immense traffic and frequency of medical helicopters and ambulances that crisscross and race through the city, which from my apartment literally produces sirens from just about everywhere. These sirens do tend to blend in with all the other city noise one can reasonably expect, and under normal circumstances wouldn’t amount to much more than a recognition of “another siren.” However, when under lockdown during a global pandemic, the frequency of these sirens and their production from all over the city becomes more noticeable and impactful. From this environment Sirens from Everywhere began its conception.
Two distinct but equal choirs of trumpets, four each, ideally surround the audience (depending on the hall/performance venue), representing and bringing to life the reality of sirens communicating across the distance, starting from and heading to different destinations, their paths traceable but difficult to discern through the activity. Our courageous string trio provides the rhythmic engine of the city and local traffic, informing the sirens’ directions but making their presence heard and felt on their own accord. At the end, rest may finally be afforded, but as any medical worker will tell you once this pandemic struck in full force, that rest is quickly abated by the next emergency, the next ambulance or copter bringing in more folks in need of care.
Sirens from Everywhere was commissioned by Tara Simoncic and the Flexible Orchestra for an initial performance in September 2020 in New York City. My thanks to Tara for providing the head-scratching challenge that is writing for such a unique ensemble, and my thanks to all of Baltimore’s medical workers and the work they do, the sheer volume of which is audible at any time.
July 28 2020
Joseph Foster Harkins