Speakings

(2008)

by Jonathan Harvey

Description
orchestra and electronics
Duration
25
Genres
Electronics with Live Performers, Full Orchestra
Instrumentation
3(solo fl=picc+afl+bfl, I=afl+picc, II=picc).3(solo ob=ca).3(II=Ebcl).2(II=cbsn) – 4.3(III=ptpt ad lib).3(III=btrbn).1 – perc(4): solo player: t.bells/timpano/tam-t/hi-hat.cym/small tgl/2 tpl.bl/wdbl/mcas/guero/high sandblocks I: crot/cym/small bongo/5 wdbl/cuica or talking drum/lower sandblocks II: gong in A/2 tam-t/small cym/guero/flexatone III: BD/5 c.bell/5 tpl.bl/2 temple bowls/cabaca – harp – pno/cel/electronic keyboard – strings(14.12.10.8.6) + solo string quartet (solo ensemble) SOLO ENSEMBLE (included above): fl(=picc+afl).ob(=ca).cl – trbn – perc (7 or 8 mics -> downix to 1) – harp – pno – string quartet ELECTRONIC REQUIREMENTS: The Solo Ensemble have special close mics. They are seated at the front, except for the solo percussion, harp and piano.11 live input instruments (close miking – clip-on mics) on the 11 solo instruments listed above. One stereo mix of the orchestra (mics from the radio – or others Loudspeaker setup: 6 or 8 depending on the hall/ Mixing desk: DM2000 if possible 2 laptops (Macs) 2 audio interface (RME 400, 13 adat input) 2 lemur Jazzmutant graphic interfaces (one for backup)
Commission

Commissioned by the BBC and IRCAM with funds from Radio France

First Performance
19.8.08, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London: BBC SSO/Ilan Volkov
Availability

Score and parts for hire. A link to the electronic resources necessary for public performance will be supplied by the hire library upon request (hire@fabermusic.com)

Programme Notes

Speakings was written in 2007-8. It is the third in my trilogy referring to the Buddhist purification of body, mind and speech, which the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra commissioned. Speakings is also commissioned by IRCAM/Radio France and involves electronics which I realised with the help of Gilbert Nouno, Arshia Cont and also Grégoire Carpentier. The work is gratefully dedicated to Ilan Volkov, the BBCSSO and Frank Madlener. Speech and music are very close and yet also distant. In Speakings I wanted to bring together orchestral music and human speech. It is as if the orchestra is learning to speak, like a baby with its mother, or like first man, or like listening to a highly expressive language we don't understand. The rhythms and emotional tones of speech are formed by semantics, but even more they are formed by feelings - in that respect they approach song. In Buddhist mythology from India there is a notion of original, pure speech, in the form of mantras - half song, half speech. The OM-AH-HUM is said to be the womb of all speech. The orchestral discourse, itself inflected by speech structures, is electro-acoustically shaped by the envelopes of speech taken from largely random recordings. The vowel and consonant spectra-shapes flicker in the rapid rhythms and colours of speech across the orchestral textures. A process of 'shape vocoding', taking advantage of speech's fascinating complexities, is the main idea of this work. The first movement is like an incarnation, the descent into human life. The second is concerned with the frenetic chatter of human life in all it's expressions of domination, assertion, fear, love, etc. It expands the work Sprechgesang composed just before. It finally moves, exhausted, to mantra and a celebration of ritual language. The mantra is orchestrated and treated by shape vocoding. The third movement is shorter, like the first. Here speech has a calmer purpose; it is married to a music of unity, a hymn which is close to Gregorian chant. There is often a single monodic line reverberated in a large acoustic space. There is little division of line against line, or music against listener, as the reverberation eliminates the sense of separation between listener and musical object. The paradise of the sounding temple is imagined. The movements are played without a break. © Jonathan Harvey 2008

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