‘A modern masterpiece… No experience in contemporary music has so bewitched and bewildered me… ultimately a work of profound contemplation, totally lucid, with its wonderful central climax, its mantra-like chant, and a coda that drifts away weightlessly to another world. One of the great monuments of contemporary music from one of the most gentle, wise, thoughtful and serene characters…’ The Glasgow Herald 


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( + 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)


Score 0571538886 on sale 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


‘Possibly one of the most adventurous orchestral compositions ever undertaken by any composer, certainly in the recent history of music…’
The Glasgow Herald (Michael Tumelty), 4 March 2009

‘The theory is immensely complex, but Harvey's musical use of it is often strikingly direct, and the recording reveals the sheer physical impact and strange beauty of his orchestral writing…’
The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 24 June 2010

‘A modern masterpiece… No experience in contemporary music has so bewitched and bewildered me… [a] mesmerising score… The hall itself seemed to be a living organism, breathing and speaking with the orchestra. Though the eagerly awaited recording does not and cannot replicate the sheer sense of space of that experience, the trajectory of this great piece, ultimately a work of profound contemplation, is totally lucid, with its wonderful central climax, its mantra-like chant, and a coda that drifts away weightlessly to another world. One of the great monuments of contemporary music from one of the most gentle, wise, thoughtful and serene characters…’
The Glasgow Herald (Michael Tumelty), 20 September 2010

‘Here there is no question of falling back on technology. as a substitute for strong emotion. Harvey's ability to work with very basic sound-images and to suggest how elemental physical and spiritual qualities can (and should) generate a genuinely contemporary, living musical language have never been more directly perceptible.’
Gramophone (Arnold Whittall), October 2010

‘An ambitious and impressive work... The effect is striking. First of all, a dusting of high and twinkling sounds, a bath of diffuse sensations. Then one distinguishes melodic lines that are close to speech… The second movement is like a collective prayer, culminating in a gigantic tutti. Maximum saturation. Then comes a Messiaen-like theme until a mysterious ending with a slow ascent on divided strings… These sounds speak.’
Le Temps (Julian Sykes), 21 March 2011

‘An ambitious piece… Using technical sophistication, it lead us through a lovely and changing display of timbres and harmonic colour towards a resonant space like that of a temple… A journey full of musical beauty.’
Diverdi (Manuel Luca de Tena), 30 September 2010

‘The complexities of composition are multiple here, yet the immediacy of Harvey's expressive voice is what dominates the listening experience. The reverberant finale is again chantlike in basis, its long, slow lines implying an arrival at a new space beyond the foregoing (wisdom / enlightenment / afterlife?).’
Tempo (Colin Clarke), January 2011

‘Harvey deploys the resources in the shape of sound projection generated by IRCAM-to infuse and enhance, making something infinitely richer and more eloquent... In the third movement a grand elegy on trombones gives way to a shimmering wash of sound combining the live orchestra and electronics that reverberated round the hall to splendid effect.’
The Evening Standard (Barry Millington), 8 August 2008


BBC Radio 3 (United Kingdom)

Cédric Tiberghien/Jérémie Henrot (Sound Engineer)/Ilan Volkov/BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra


Musical Theater (Basel, Switzerland)

Basel Sinfonietta/SWR Experimentalstudio/Baldur Brönnimann


Hear and Now recording from 2011 Edinburgh Festival

BBC Radio 3 (United Kingdom)

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov


part of the 'Festival Manca'

Opéra de Nice (Nice, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France)

L'Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice/Jean Déroyer


No Venue (Wrocław, Poland)

Orchestra of Filharmonia Wroclawska/Pascal Rophé

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