Programme notes for all the pieces for New Music Day, Colchester 11th May 2011

 

Alan Parsons

Three pieces for clarinet and piano

These short pieces were written in 1953 when I was interested in the early works of Schonberg, Berg and Webern.

Alan Bullard

Bede, for soprano and bass clarinet

Bede was written specially for today’s performers. It is a setting of a short poem by Anna Crowe, entitled

Parable

. Bede is dying at Jarrow, and blesses his brother monks with all he owns – linen, incense, pepper – the poet then developing the concept of how ‘less is more, and little, much’.

Anna Crowe lives in St Andrews, Scotland and works as a poet and translator (mainly from Catalan and Castilian) and as a creative writing tutor. She was formerly the director of Stanza, Scotland’s poetry festival, and her work has been translated into Catalan and Spanish.

Alan Bullard lives in Colchester and is a full-time composer. He recently received awards from the Music Industries Association for his piano series ‘Joining the Dots’ and for ‘The Oxford Book of Flexible Carols’, which he edited.

Laurence Glazier

Sonata for Bass Clarinet and Piano

A rumbumptious dance opens this work, balanced by a trio which introduces, en passant, the theme for the

final movement. The dance returns, klezmer-like, at a more frenzied pace, before the calm of the second movement, a gentle twelve bar blues. Repose is brief, for the finale brings a theme of constantly varying rhythm,

which transcends the home tonal area of F as soon as it returns there in the penultimate bars.

Colin Blundell

Five Mathoms (WP)

In these blighted days when children have been directed to much inferior reading and Tolkien’s The Hobbit is no longer the fashion, it is probably necessary to explain that the word ‘Mathom’ is an old word of the hobbit-dialect, not recorded as being of use outside the Shire. It refers to any item that has no particular immediate use except that the owner has no wish to throw it away. Mathoms were often given as presents by the Shire Hobbits or stored in the Mathom House.

I suppose Beethoven, from whose string quartet Opus 132 I more or less quote from the sequence depicting a celebration after recovery from ‘illness’ in the fifth Mathom, would have called such pieces ‘Bagatelles’.

Five Mathoms were substantially written prior to having a little medical problem sorted out; they were finished off in the aftermath when I experienced a huge feeling of gratitude to the Universe for allowing me to survive the ordeal.

Julia Usher

Out There

Reflections on a poem by Jamie McKendrick

For Bass Clarinet, Multitrack Sound Canvas, and

Projection.

“Nostalgia for the Earth and its atmosphere

weakens the flesh and bones of

cosmonauts……..”

Hurtling into a tunnel space on the Underground, I found Jamie McKendrick’s poem posted above

my head; since that first reading I’ve been unable to get it out of my mind. The cosmonauts are cool scientists, to judge from the opening lecture lines on chance in the universe. But straight away, they are confronted with the nothingness of space as they leave earth for an unnamed and abstract destination, “halfway to the moon.” Sealed into the capsule, they cease to distinguish sleep from dreams, memories and hallucinations; which raise intolerable memories of home. The poet confronts us with the empty barrenness of a space where once had been where heaven was; ” ….and never so keenly as from out there can the lost feel earth’s the only paradise.”

The poignancy of this realisation, that there isn’t anything better beyond us Out There, heightened since I first read it; now that our world too seems ever more empty of certainties and comforts.

I have not set the words for singing, and most of itis not recited. Instead, I have closely paralleled the poem in an unfolding sound world; the Bass Clarinet is the human experiencer; the electronic sound canvas reflects and distorts what might be in his

the mechanical environment of the spaceship; which provokes episodes of paranoia.

Some of the words of the poem emerge on screen, projected. The samples and sound material all come from a journey I made last year to the Baltic.

The four sections are:

a) The Lecture on Nothing. b) Cabin Fever. c) Hallucinations. d) Nostalgia for the Earth.

For Jamie McKendrick

Permission kindly granted by Jamie McKendrick, and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation; in the collection “Dark Matter: Poems of Space. (2008)”

Evening Concert, Swinburne Hall, Colchester Institute, 7.30pm

 

Tim Torry

The Face of Grief

 

  1. 1.     June, 1915
  2. 2.     Here lies a Prisoner
  3. 3.     May, 1915

 

Completed in June 2003 and ‘Highly Commended’ by the Society for the Promotion of New Music after their ‘Call for Works’ in 2005, The Face of Grief consists of settings of poems from a posthumously published collection (called The Rambling Sailor) by Charlotte Mew, who was born in London in 1869 and who took her own life in 1927.

The first song – from which the title is derived – conjures up the vision of an eager, innocent child ‘with shining eyes and rough bright hair’ reaching down June’s first rose ‘in a green sunny lane’, untouched by the ‘great broken world’ of 1915, with its ‘eyes gone dim / From too much looking on the face of grief, the face of dread —’.

In the second song, the poet reflects on the ‘outraged soul’ of the prisoner who –‘quieter than he used to be’- listens ‘still to the magpie chatter / Over his grave.’.

The final song exhorts us – with some desperation – to ‘remember Spring will come again / To the scorched, blackened woods –’ where the wounded trees wait patiently for the healing power of the ‘heavenly rain’, and for the sea breeze, sky and sun to ‘come again like a divine surprise / To those who sit to-day with their great Dead — / At one with Love, at one with Grief —’.

The music is characterised by atmospheric piano preludes, interludes and postludes (including bell- and bird-like ostinati) and vocal lines which are both declamatory and archingly lyrical, trying as much as possible to stay true to the natural rhythm of the words. A grief-laden, but – at the same time – hopeful repose is finally achieved, amid gently tolling bells.

The songs were first performed – with Helen Leek (piano) – in 2006, by tonight’s soloist, Lindsay Gowers, to whom the work is dedicated.

                                                                             © Tim Torry, March 2011.

 

Three songs from ‘Chamber Music’ by James Joyce

 

These songs were completed earlier this year and are dedicated to Lindsay Gowers in recognition of the contribution she has made to CNM concerts over the years. The initial phrase:

D Eflat A G E Eflat is derived from musical letters from Lindsay’s name. The songs are followed by a postlude during which the singer recalls quotations from the songs.

AP

 Tim Torry                         One Intent (A Piece for Patrice), for solo piano.

One Intent is one of a series of pieces written as gifts for friends of mine at the Colchester Buddhist Centre, to celebrate their being accepted as ordained members of the Western Buddhist Order.

One outcome of the ordination process involves the giving of an appropriate Buddhist name, which is intended to encapsulate aspects of the new Order Member’s character and/or indicate spiritual aspirations that may be appropriate to the individual.

In this case, Patrice Edwards was given the name Advayamati, which – amongst many other qualities – suggests ‘calm and unwavering intent on the spiritual path’ (towards Enlightenment), hence both the title of the piece and the initial instruction to the performer to play ‘Advayamatically: calm, but with unwavering intent’.

The music uses a chant-like melodic style (with a largely chordal accompaniment) and is gently punctuated throughout by an intermittent ‘flickering’ figure, high up (with which piece opens), suggesting the sound of a meditation bell.

After building to a central climax – which is allowed to fade away on a questioning chord – the second half of the piece takes on a more compassionately lyrical  quality, the gentle punctuations now a little more elaborate, even bird-like.

This section, too, gradually builds – with gentle insistence – to a climax and, after a brief moment of silence, finally re-asserts the already-present feeling of unwavering intent and ends with a final cadence intended to suggest a sense of continuing aspiration and confidence in the spiritual process, the final word going to the flickering figure, which disappears – incomplete – off the top end of the piano.

And so the spiritual process continues – indefinitely – beyond words …. and notes!

Completed in September, 2001, One Intent was ‘Highly Commended’ by the Society for the Promotion of New Music after their ‘Call for Works’ in 2005 and given its ‘World Premiere’ (as the programme kindly described it) by Philip Smith, at the Lighthouse Centre for the Arts, Poole, on 2nd March, 2006.

 © Tim Torry, May 1st, 2006.

Mark Bellis: ‘Benedicite, Omnia Opera’

for Soprano, Bass Clarinet and Piano

This is a setting of the canticle at Morning Prayer ‘O All ye Works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord’ – which in the Anglican tradition is used at Mattins in Advent and Lent instead of the Te Deum. The Old Testament basis of this, possibly dating from the first or second century B.C., is found in Daniel, Chapter 3, and is sometimes known as the ‘Song of the Three Holy Children’ – being an extended hymn of praise for their deliverance by the angel from the burning, fiery furnace.

A ritualistic refrain after each verse exhorts various persons or things – including some rather surprising ones – to: ‘Bless Ye the Lord: Praise Him and magnify Him for ever’, and my setting ends with a calm doxology ‘Glory be to the Father…’

1 O All ye Works of the Lord, 2 Angels of the Lord, 3 Heavens, 4 Waters that be above the Firmament, 5 Powers of the Lord, 6 Sun and Moon, 7 Stars of Heaven, 8 Showers and Dew, 9 Winds of God, 10 Fire and Heat, 11 Winter and Summer, 12 Dews and Frosts, 13 Frost and Cold, 14 Ice and Snow, 15 Nights and Days, 16 Light and Darkness, 17 Lightnings and Clouds, 18 The Earth, 19 Mountains and Hills, 20 Green Things upon the Earth, 21 Wells, 22 Seas and Floods, 23 Whales, and all that move in the Waters, 24 Fowls of the Air, 25 Beasts and Cattle, 26 Children of Men, 27 Israel, 28 Priests of the Lord, 29 Servants of the Lord, 30 Spirits and Souls of the Righteous, 31 Holy and humble Men of heart, 32 Ananias, Azarias, and Misael. 33 Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, 34 As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

MARK BELLIS

 

STUART RUSSELL : THAMES ESTUARY NOCTURNE (WP)

Music for Bass Clarinet, Piano, Electronics.

Thames Estuary Nocturne has its roots in a foggy night back in February when the container ships in the Thames has reached a point of near zero visibility and consequently sounded their horns as they navigated the hazardous stretch from Tilbury, down past Southend on Sea into the North Sea. I live not far from the estuary and having been awoken, decided to drive down to Two-Tree island, not far from me, and placed nearest to the river. I recorded the sounds of the horns orginally for a purely electroacoustic piece, but aware of the oppertunity to work with SCAW, decided to write the bass clarinet as the horns and the piano as a romantic counterpoint & periodic interlude. This would allow me the freedom to move the Bass Clarinet from a purely imitative device into a very musical one and back again.

Having decided to reject the obvious, I sampled the bass clarinets harmonic series then constructed some multiphonic clusters in the laptop that harmonized with the piano and bass clarinet, in order to make a timbre that could both describe the ships horns, change colour with the composition and ultimately provide some interesting, evolving drones across the musical keyboard. This then allowed me to build up a background tapestry of distant and nearer imitatative sounds and some textures that could be modulated with harmonies. In addition I also added some bass synthesis to the electronics to add a further, distant ambient layer of drones and sound and a grounding.

There is one sample used that was difficult to obtain- the wind & distant clanging bell required me to wade out into the estuary mud with microphone in order to record it, and it took several attempts over a couple of days to get the sound I wanted, which i then further modulated in the composition.

I will diffuse the electronic backing live.

www.scawduo.com

Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=109049672512656

 

 

 

 

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