Two Organa


large chamber ensemble of 22 players
Mixed Chamber Ensemble
2(II=afl) - 2110 - perc(2): vib/glsp/mcas/vibraslap/t.bells/timp/BD/susp.cym/tgl/tam-t - harmonium - pno - cel - harp - 2 vln.vla.vlc.db
First Performance
7.2.95, Theater aan de Parade, 's-Hertogenbosch, Holland: Members of Het Brabants Orkest/Oliver Knussen

Score 0-571-51624-6 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes

These two short pieces approach the same idea in quite different ways. The 12th century organa of the Notre Dame School (e.g. Perotin) employ plainchant tones as the slow foundation for rapid, ecstatic, dance-like melismata. In June 1994 I used this technique to write a very short piece for a Dutch “music box” project in which thirty-two composers wrote for a two-octave musical box using only white notes. I dedicated the resulting Notre Dame des Jouets to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies on his 60th birthday and orchestrated it in February this year. The second Organum, dedicated to Reinbert de Leeuw, brings the same technique into a less “innocent” world employing the total chromatic in elaborate polyrhythmic layers. It should be listened to with half and ear on the foreground activity (which is partly defined by specific musical identities) and the other half on the extremely slow cantus firmus which defines its scale and resonances. The second Organum was first performed by the Schonberg Ensemble under Reinbert de Leeuw at its 20th anniversary concert in Utrecht in September last year.

© Oliver Knussen

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