Summer Cloud's Awakening, The

(2001)

by Jonathan Harvey

Description
SATB choir, flute, cello and electronics
Duration
32
Genres
Mixed Voices
Text
Richard Wagner, Shakyamuni
Instrumentation
flute(=picc+afl): Electronic keyboard with two technicians
Languages
English
Commission
Commissioned by the New London Chamber Choir and Oxford Contemporary Music to mark the Choir's 20th Anniversary and funded jointly by the New London Chamber Choir and Southern Arts. The work was made possible by the co-production of CIRM (Centre National de Creation Musicale) and the association Art de la Napoule Realisation technologique CIRM
First Performance
12.4.02, UK, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford: New London Chamber Choir/members of Critical Band/James Wood
Availability

Score and parts for hire

Programme Notes
Commissioned by the New London Chamber Choir and Oxford Contemporary Music to mark the Choir's 20th Anniversary and funded jointly by the New London Chamber Choir and Southern Arts. The work was made possible by the co-production of CIRM (Centre National de Creation Musicale) and the association Art de la Napoule Realisation technologique CIRM. Asked to contribute a major new piece (it's about half an hour long) to the New London Chamber Choir's twentieth anniversary year, I was delighted that James Wood was very keen that I have the opportunity to incorporate sophisticated electronics, even arranging for me to work at CIRM in Nice with the brilliant sound designer and composer Carl Faia. My debt to them both is great indeed, as it is also to François Paris and the Studio. The electronics are, as a result, an elaborate part of the argument, with dramatic 8-channel spatialisation of the recorded sounds, choir and instruments (which are flute and cello). The sound is chopped up at speed and flung around and above the listener, often in canonic formations. Huge clusters of sound ('clouds' and 'mists') are created from the voices and instruments. Some sounds are recorded, but many are created in real time. Everything is based on the relationship of a brief phrase from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde to the Buddhist vision of reality. The Wagner phrase is stretched out from 12 seconds to 5 minutes - the 'longing' of the Wagnerian phrase so achingly long that it seems almost motionless. The text is 'Must the day waken Tristan?' Much of the music is based on notes from Wagner's phrase, and there are enigmatic human dramas enacted in response. The Buddhist texts are from the Buddha and the Buddhist text, the Diamond Sutra: they aim to awaken man from the dream through which he views the world. The fleeting, impermanent self and objects we grasp at as reality are like 'a flash of lightning in a summer cloud', 'a flickering lamp' or 'a bubble in a stream'. The work has a ritualistic form, demarcated by Buddhist temple instruments, played by the singers. The cellist plays an extra instrument as well: 'prepared' cello. This has two each of the bottom two strings: two G-strings and two C-strings - all tuned an octave down, giving a deep, strange, heiratic sound. Jonathan Harvey

Licensing Information

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Harvey’s Cello

As Harvey's cello is donated to St John's College, Cambridge we look back at his works for the instrument. Read more

'The Summer Cloud's Awakening' reviews

'… Whether electronically or otherwise, and for whatever medium, Harvey composes right down to the acoustic pith of things. He is a rare spirit, ever in search of the new and numinous.' Read more

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