3(all=picc.III=afl).3.3(III in A=bcl).2.cbsn - 4.3(I=ptpt).3.1 - timp - perc(4): 3 xyl/timp/tam-t/2 BD/3 glsp - cel - 2 harp - mandolin - banjo - strings
Full score 0571519806 and vocal score 0571520502 on sale, parts for hire
This short work explores Caliban’s famous speech in Act 3 Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in which he describes a magical music pervading the island on which he lives: Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices, That if I then had waked after long sleep, Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming The clouds methought would open and show riches Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked, I cried to dream again. The savage Caliban sings fiercely in long, melismatic phrases. Around him the orchestra drifts between an eerie tranquillity and mercurial activity, almost permanently pianissimo. I imagined that this music was happening, as in a dream, within Caliban’s mind, although its capricious behaviour is beyond his control. Sometimes quiet and beguiling, at turns more sinister, the chorus, acting as spirits, chant only one word during the piece – Caliban’s name. Suddenly, towards the end, all instrumental and vocal forces erupt in a sustained and colossal tutti. This cuts off abruptly, revealing Caliban bewildered and stunned at the end of his vision. At all times I wanted to achieve an extreme clarity of texture and deep integration between the baritone line and its harmonic environment. As a consequence of this, the harmonic core is consonant and transparent; this, in turn, breeds a wide variety of other harmonic strands and materials as it progresses. The large orchestra employs a quartet of plucked instruments - banjo, mandolin and two harps - and a trio of xylophones (playing super-fast tremolos with side-drum sticks), though these unusual timbres are used sparingly. Sometime Voices was commissioned for the Hallé Orchestra to open the inaugural concert at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall in September 1996, and is dedicated to the conductor of its premiere Kent Nagano.
© George Benjamin
‘… refined aural sensibility and meticulous craftsmanship… What we experience, in this haunting soundscape of shifting metres, cross-currents of orchestral breath and vibration, baffling fragments of calling and humming voices, are not only the magical sounds themselves, but Caliban’s own responses. His frissons of sensuous delight, his bewilderment, above all – in a brilliantly achieved orchestral climax – his inchoate terror are all musicked into being.’
The Times (Hilary Finch), 6 May 2003