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The Eye of Night by DAVID BRUCE


The Eye of Night was commissioned by Art of Elan in San Diego and is dedicated to Gordon Brodfuehrer. It is a series of four tender movements, each in their own way a kind of nocturne. The night and in particular the night sky has long held a fascination for me. We all know the awe-inspiring site that awaits us if we are lucky enough to find ourselves away from the city lights in front of a cloudless night sky - I think the awe we experience on such occasions is not just because of the beauty and grandeur of the spectacle - but because it one of the very few times we are directly faced with the vast mystery of the universe. I have made an oath to myself that at least once every year I will make a pilgrimage to somewhere where I am able to lose myself in such a spectacle.

Continuing a source of inspiration from one of the songs in my song-cycle for Dawn Upshaw, The North Wind was a Woman (a series of songs conveying the painfully melancholy points of view of inanimate or incorporeal objects: snow, wind, night, the moon and a mountain), I have been drawn to the image, first discovered in a short story by Aimee Bender (* see below), of the night sky as a giant eye looking down on us, unblinkingly. The image fascinates me because it captures the complexity of feelings one experiences when staring up into space - it is friendly, familiar and constant, whilst at the same time being overwhelming, dizzying and quietly terrifying.

The first of the pieces has a dark atmosphere, that falls somewhere between sensual and plaintive. The melodic flute lines draw inspiration from the ornamental style of Indian bansuri flute playing. I am very grateful to Alex Housego, a British -born flute player who spent much of his childhood in India and so is familiar with both western and Indian traditions. His advice in finding areas of bansuri-flute technique which would translate adequately to a modern western flute was invaluable.

The second, very short movement has a sweeter atmosphere, showing a more tender and blissful side of night. The third, while still in a largely piano or pianissimo dynamic register is move active and flowing. The final piece is a lullaby, or 'song without words' inspired by William Blake's Cradle Song where he imagines the 'little sorrows' and 'quiet desires' of a sleeping baby.

David Bruce 11 July 2010

(*)Aimee Bender very kindly gave me permission to post the entire 'flash fiction' story she wrote which is called "Broke":

Broke by Aimee Bender

He met a woman with eyes so black they woke up the nocturnal mammals. If you looked closely enough-if she let you-if you were her lover and lucky enough to see in that intently-you could, on a summer night, find Orion near her left pupil. The great hunter. Watch out. Those seven little dots glittering, scattered on the iris, were like brands of longing on the heart of the looker, and she never left a man complete. For the rest of their lives, memories of the slippery line of her back would flit into their minds, while driving through traffic, while frying bacon, while washing sand from their children's hands after a long reddening day at the beach. Look into the sky on a dark summer night, and there, huge, is the eye of the woman you once loved like a rocket. Try to survive that.

© 2001 Aimee Bender

Press / Latest Reviews

Washington Post / May 2015
Stephen Brookes

The evening closed with a relatively new work from 2010, David Bruce’s “The Eye of Night.” Each of its four gentle and melodic movements is “a kind of nocturne,” says the composer, inspired by the sight of the night sky. Melodic and darkly luminous, it moved along with an air of dreamlike mystery before closing in a delicate, peaceful lullaby. A wildly enthusiastic ovation brought the trio back for a full-throttle arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” — pure fun, from a talented young ensemble. / Feb 2011
Christian Hertzog

The Eye of Night, is simply one of the greatest compositions for flute, viola, and harp I've heard in years. "

San / Jan 2011
Christian Hertzog

The Eye of Night is a four-movement work distinguished by clear forms and unabashedly gorgeous melodies and harmonies...There are precious few [composers] with the gift for writing a great melody or theme. David Bruce, on the strength of this work and others found at his web site, appears to be one of the chosen...

...The applause which followed the final notes of The Eye of Night was not the perfunctory clapping people give so as not to seem rude to a composer in the audience. No, the vigorous applause was sincere, a sign that a roomful of people had just been deeply moved by music they (or anyone else) had ever heard before.

...There are many reasons that an ensemble commissions a composer, but the best and most basic reason is in the hope of receiving a work which that ensemble can perform again and again. Another hope—but one rarely achieved—is that the work commissioned becomes a masterpiece in the genre. I believe that The Eye of Night will soon be become a favorite composition to perform and record by the Debussy trios (flute, viola, and harp) out there, and in allowing such a work to be created, the Art of Elan has done an invaluable service.

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for flute, harp & viola

1 Flute (dbl. Alto Flute + Bass Flute)
1 Viola
1 Harp

Duration 15mins
Composed May-July 2010
First performance Jan 18th 2011, San Diego Museum of Art. The Myriad Trio
Commissioned by Art of Elan for the Myriad Trio
Dedicated to Gordon Brodfuehrer


Past Performances


  • The Eye of Night - mvt 1  
  • The Eye of Night - mvt 2  
  • The Eye of Night - mvt 3  
  • The Eye of Night - mvt 4  

Related Posts

 • The Eye of Night CD release (3/7/2012)
 • Double vision (7/4/2011)
 • Forthcoming premieres & performances (5/1/2011)
 • The next David Bruce (1/24/2011)
 • San Diego Élan (1/21/2011)
 • Forthcoming premieres (1/9/2011)
 • Flute glissandi (9/8/2010)
 • Two new pieces (7/14/2010)
 • Indian melodies, Indian ornaments (5/21/2010)


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