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Ritual Melodies was completed at IRCAM in 1990 and explores the new
possibilities of instrument modelling available in the program
Formes. Jan Vandenheede constructed an Indian oboe, a Vietnamese
koto, a shakuhachi, a Tibetan temple bell, a western plainchant voice
and a Tibetan chant voice. Because all the sounds are artificial,
anything can turn into anything, gradually changing vibrato, way of
moving from attack to attack, etc. Their inner structure changes as
they go. I wanted to bring together these highly individual
instruments of ritual into a cross-cultural ritual which could not
possibly happen in the real world.
16 melodies were composed, each morphing between two instruments. The
melodies themselves form a chain: Melody A can combine with B to form
a new coherent melody AB. Similarly B with C to form BC, and so on.
There are many polyphonic webs which use these melodies, often in
canon. Each melody uses the same array of pitches, which is a
harmonic series omitting the lowest 5 pitches. Each interval,
therefore is different from every other interval. So the piece as a
whole reflects the natural acoustic structure of the instruments and
voices. The Tibetan chant voices supply a deeper pitch level.
Melodies are doubled to form chords later in the piece, and they are
also reverberated to form 'clouds' which trail behind the melodies.
© Jonathan Harvey