Bird Concerto with Pianosong


piano, ensemble of 17 players and live electronics
Electronics with Live Performers, Solo Instrument(s) with Ensemble
picc.ob.2 cl(II=cbcl).bsn - hn.tpt.trbn - perc(2): vib/xyl/crot/large gong/susp.cym/tam-t/2 tom-t/BD/mcas/2's roar/slide whistle - harp - accordion - 2 vln.vla.vlc.db - piano solo (=SY77 sampler keyboard) Electronic Requirements: 5 (or 10) speakers with their amplifiers/Macintosh computer(s)/2 joy sticks/game sprockets 1.7.5 for Macintosh/yamaha SY77 synth/emulator E64 sampler/SIP driver for MAC100 iomega disks/sophisticated computerised mixer/audio and MIDI cables Software needed: ZIP disc for E64 samples/floppy disc for SY77 and CD Rom for computer/mixer/treatments

Commissioned by Sinfonia 21 and GRAME/Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain (Lyon)

First Performance
11.7.2001, Cheltenham Festival: Joanna MacGregor/Sinfonia 21/Martyn Brabbins

Full score and parts for hire

Programme Notes

Indigo bunting, orchard oriole, golden crowned sparrow - these are some of the 40 colourful Californian birds whose songs and cries sparked the ignition of this work as I started it in the brilliant light of California. 'Real' birdsong was to be stretched seamlessly all the way to human proportions - resulting in giant birds - so that a contact between worlds is made. When I started to transpose them and slow them down to our natural speeds of perception they began to reveal level after level of ornamentation - baroque culicues and oriental arabesques. They were put on a triggering keyboard and combined in dialogue with instruments - particularly solo piano, who connects closely by playing birdsong samples and piano simultaneously, and so incorporated in the pitch and time of our own song-world. Birds embody not only the joy of endless singing but also the freedom of the body's flight. The orchestra, like the birds, would have to wing its way through the bright air. Birds also use quasi-electronic frequency modulation in their cries and songs. I took their hint and copied their tricks in the electronic modulations of the orchestra. If the songs and objects of the score can bring some inkling of how it might feel to be a human in the mind of a bird, or vice-versa, then I would be happy. The Bird Concerto with Pianosong was written in response to a request from Joanna MacGregor, who plays both the piano and sampler/synthesiser keyboard, and commissioned by Sinfonia 21, with whom I have a happy association, together with GRAME/Ensemble Orchestrale Contemporain and the French Ministere de Culture. The birdsongs were encoded in digital form by Bill Schottstaedt of CCRMA: my thanks to him, to Juan Pampin for help with programming, to Sound Intermedia (Ian Dearden and David Shephard) for their help with spatialisation, modulation and diffusion and to Oliver Rivers for his encouragement.

Jonathan Harvey

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