A new work for orchestra and live electronics completes the triptych together with previous orchestral works, …towards a pure land and Body Mandala. Speakings, like the preceding works was commissioned by the BBC as part of Harvey’s residency with the BBC SSO, though due to the live electronic elements of the composition, it was also commissioned by Radio France and electronics specialists, IRCAM.
Speakings lasts 25 minutes, and was performed at the BBC Proms on 19 August by the BBC SSO and Ilan Volkov, and also received its Scottish premiere at Glasgow City Halls with the same performers on 3 March 2009.
Harvey describes the work:
‘Speakings is the second in the large trilogy I have written for the BBC SSO on the theme of the purification of body, speech and mind. It’s a co-commission with IRCAM and so has involved a year’s work in their studios. My idea is to show that point in evolution when speech starts, whether in man as opposed to animal, or infant growing up. The orchestra is made to speak through electronic treatment of their sounds, which have the rapid play of vowels and consonants analysed from men and women speaking fast, slow, emotionally or quietly, etc… From the initial movement where the baby screams its entry into the world to the almost crazy chatterings, arguments and discussions of the second movement, the discourse of the piece moves towards ‘mantra’, the origin and purification of speech in Buddhist lore, and towards a ‘Gregorian Paradise’ of hymn-like unity of being. It is very different from anything I have ever written before, and will be a big challenge for the real-time electronics!’