Devil's Music, The
Distant Shore, A
From Fire Co..
Ghosts of Reason
Going Into Sh ..
I Am Black
I Am Writing...
In Tempore Stellae
Journey to Horse..
Lines Drawn Fr..
Meaning of Water
Once upon a time
Quicksilver Ser ..
Song of Songs
Sound Lur and...
St Peter's Suite
Stick Dance II
Stick Dance III
Symphony No. 1...
Symphony No. 2...
Symphony No. 3...
To the evening...
In Tempore Stellae, Symphony No 1(1997-98)
In Tempore Stellae is in three movements - the first, ‘Ground of
Heaven’ draws on texts from The Book of Job, Ovid’s account
of creation in the Metamorphoses, Charles Messier’s numbered list
of nebulous and celestial objects (published in 1771) and their common
names in contemporary use. The Ovid text emerges out of a cloud of astronomical
and numerical mysteries in the work’s opening and the impersonal
tone and vast richness of the Ovid text is interrupted by the personal
and painful existential world of Job.
The second movement, ‘Earth Cantos’, is made up of three,
linked duets for the solo sopranos surrounded by a haze of female voices.
The first canto is based on a Geisha song about night and ascent; the
second sets part of David Malouf’s superbly playful and erotic “Crab
Feast”; the third is based on a Chinese text which again plays on
images of food and sex. The cantos are linked by very brief incantatory
passages, drawn partly from Job, about the struggle to make (“clods
of earth cohere”).
In the third movement, ‘Mysteries of Flight’, the millennial
question of the choir’s opening passage and the terrible and solitary
fear embodied in the work’s closing passage for sopranos and off-stage
trumpets (again from Job) flank an excerpt from Hart Crane’s text,
“Cape Hatteras”. In language of incredible visceral energy
and momentum Crane depicts the Wright brothers maiden flight from the
beach at Cape Hatteras with its twin promises of flight and destruction,
exhilaration and despair.
The sound world of the Symphony has, the choir at its centre with massive
choral attacks supported by the brass; slow sustained passages amidst
a haze of strings and voices; inexorable, deep, quiet throbbing sounds;
whispered and muttered vocal undercurrents often supported by orchestral
percussion (especially cymbals and Chinese gongs); and rhythmic pulsing
textures that stretch out from a central note. The sopranos are most often
heard in duet - their parts overlapping and intertwined as if in constant
sung and whispered dialogue with each other, the choir and the listener.
The idea for In Tempore Stellae first came during a visit to York Minster
in 1986 and especially from the astronomical clock in the North transept.
The clock is a memorial to locally based aviators of the Commonwealth
who died in the second world war. Its complex design shows an aviator’s
view of the northern night sky and presents the passing of time calculated
from the stars so that seasons and years seem small and hours and minutes
minuscule by comparison. The implications are stark: the duality of the
inspiring vastness of space and time against the frail but grim determination
of human aspirations. So it was a strange synchronicity that found me
walking around York Minster in August 1998 having just finished the last
movement of In Tempore Stellae and with the words and music of the movement
still jostling in my mind.
Contact and Purchasing Links
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