Speakings

Jonathan Harvey (1939)

Speakings 2008

3332 - 4331 - harp - pno - cel - electronic keyboard - strings(14.12.10.8.6) plus electronics
Duration 
25
Genre 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

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

Performances 
5.6.08 Agora Festival, Paris: Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Pascal Rophé
19.8.08 BBC Proms, London: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov
5.3.09 City Halls, Glasgow: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov
12.6.10 Agora Festival, Paris: Orchestra Philharmonique de la Radio France/Pascal Rophé
18.3.11 Geneva, Switzerland: Ensemble Contrechamps
13.8.11 Edinburgh International Festival: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov
7.9.12 Lucerne Festival, Switzerland: Lucerne Festival Academy/IRCAM/Clement Power
9.9.2 Paris, France: Lucerne Festival Academy/IRCAM/Clement Power
21.9.12 Warsaw, Poland: Warsaw Philharmonic/Pascal Rophé
30.11.12 Cologne, Germany: WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln/IRCAM/Ilan Volkov
27.9.13 Bochum, Germany: WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln/Ilan Volkov
25.10.13 Wroclaw, Poland: Orchestra of Filharmonia Wroclawska/Pascal Rophé
30.11.13 Festival Manca, Nice, France: L'Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice/Jean Déroyer
3
Flute
solo flute doubling piccolo, alto flute and bass flute, 1st doubling piccolo and alto flute, 2nd doubling piccolo
3
Oboe
solo oboe doubling cor anglais
3
Clarinet
2nd doubling Eb clarinet
2
Bassoon
2nd doubling contrabassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
3rd doubling piccolo trumpet
3
Trombone
3rd doubling bass trombone
1
Tuba
4
Percussion
solo player: tubular bells, 2 timpani, tam-tam, hi-hat cymbal, small triangle, 2 temple blocks, woodblock, maracas, guiro, high sandblocks player 1: crotales, cymbal, small bongo, 5 woodblocks, cuica or talking drum, lower sandblocks player 2: gong in A,2 tam-tams, small cymbal, guero, flexatone, player 3: bass drum, 5 cow bells, 5 temple blocks, 2 temple bowls, cabaca
14
Violin
12
Violin II
10
Viola
8
Cello
6
Double bass
1
Harp
3
Piano
1st piano, 2nd celesta, 3rd electronic keyboard
1
Electronics
The solo ensemble has special close mics, they are seated at the front, except for the solo percussion, the harp and the piano. 11 Live input instruments (close miking/clip on mics?) on the 11 solo instruments in the solo ensemble 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)
From within the orchestration above there is a solo group comprising: 11 live input instruments: fl(=picc+alt.fl).ob(=ca).cl - trbn - perc (7 or 8 mics -> downix to 1) - harp - pno - string quartet - one stereo mix of the orchestra
(Esc)