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Ji Heng Lee

pe_ple_sc_ns for soprano, baritone and electronics

2017

in response to Kurt Hörbst’s People Scans,

for the Taylor-Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize Exhibition Concert


About this piece I composed this piece for the Taylor-Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize Exhibition Concert, in response to Kurt Hörbst’s People Scans — a photograph series of human subjects lying down facing a camera, which slowly ‘scans’ their full body profiles. I am struck by two aspects of Hörbst’s work. He pushes the notion of ‘freezing’ a human subject (as in photography) to a conceptual extreme by literally scanning people flat. He also subverts the demand for high-speed (in digital photography) as he meticulously snaps twenty images for each subject and patiently stitches them together, paying attention to the details of his subjects’ physical features.

My piece, then, produces a ‘sonic scan’ of the harmonic series of A (the fundamental note), with the two singers gradually tracing and revealing the partials of the series as the piece progresses. Reverberation (EnVerb) and a synthesised track are both applied (through the use of electronics) to sustain and reinforce the vocal sounds, ‘freezing’ the harmonies in time. Furthermore, my setting of the line extracted from Maya Angelou’s Human Family — ’In minor ways we differ, in major we’re the same.’ — parses the words into their constituent syllables. It is as though the text is also being slowly passed through a phonetic scanner. Interestingly, it is only in retrospect that the listener might possibly re-arrange the words into their proper order. In a metaphysical sense, the process of ‘scanning’ has transcended the music into the listener’s mind.

A brief comment regarding Angelou’s text — isn’t it an apt affirmation of what Hörbst shows us, that while his subjects differ in detailed features, each is no less ‘human' than the other? Finally, with regards to the title, I wanted to reflect the ‘same-but-different’ nature of a response piece like this, which ‘scans’ Hörbst’s work for conceptual features and then moves on to imagine a new ‘composite’.

Performance remarks 1. Microphones: It is recommended that the two singers get a microphone each (connected to an audio interface / computer running Logic Pro), with the soprano and baritone tracks respectively panned to the left and right channels of the stereo speakers.

2. Reverberation (EnVerb) Audio FX: Both the soprano and baritone tracks are to have the EnVerb Audio FX plugin enabled, with the following suggested settings — Predelay: 10ms, Attack: 510ms, Decay: 420ms, Sustain: 55%, Hold: 800ms, Release: 1000ms, Density: 60%, Spread: 100%, High Cut: 9500Hz, Crossover: 400Hz, Low Freq. Level: 0.0dB, Mix: 30%. 
 Input Monitoring is to be turned on.

3. [Optional] Earpieces for singers: Singers may find it helpful to wear earpieces (one side) so as to hear the Input Monitor of the EnVerb effect more clearly, and better respond to the ongoing electronic manipulation of their voices.

4. Synthesised track: It is recommended that the prepared synthesised track be used, and balanced through both left and right speaker channels. The track should be started along with the soprano’s first note. Slight fluctuations in tempo during live performance do not pose any problems since the attack of the notes in the track are extremely slow — precise synchronisation is not required. I have included the notes of the track in the score primarily for the singers to be aware of the harmonies that are being sustained in the background.

5. Phonetics: As far as possible, proper words (e.g. ‘my’, ‘err’) are used to indicate desired pronunciations. Where words fail, I have described vocal sounds with the International Phonetic Alphabet, which should nonetheless be relatively straightforward to decipher when the singers have familiarised themselves with the ten-word sentence I have set. In every instance, keep in mind the sense that syllables are constantly ‘morphing’ in the singers’ mouths.

6. Meter and bar-lines: Given the meter-less vocal lines, I have not used a time signature. Dotted bar-lines are drawn for the purposes of clarity, to facilitate score-reading.

Duration: ca. 2:55


Text extracted from Maya Angelou's Human Family

pe_ple_sc_ns in response to Kurt Hörbst's People Scans, for the Taylor-Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize Exhibition Concert

Ji Heng LEE (2017)

q = 80 – 84 Spacious and reverberant ppp almost inaudible Soprano *

° & ˙™

œ œ.

m

ʌɪ

pp

p

˙

œœœ

m

ʌɪ

mf

˙™

˙™

m

ʌɪ

pp

Ó

f

˙

˙™

m

ʌɪ

(left channel)

Œ Œ Œ

ΠΠppp almost inaudible

Œ Œ ˙

? Ó

pp

˙

Œ ˙

Ó

Baritone *

¢ (right channel)

err

err

molto legato sempre

Synth.* track

˙ & pppp cresc. a poco a poco

(both channels)

8

pp S.

° & Ó

f

˙

f

Œ

˙™

Ó

mf

Œ ˙

my

p

Ó

˙

˙

my

˙ ˙ Œ

˙

Ó

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o Œ Ó

p

? ˙™

p

mf

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my

f sempre

o Œ

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Bar.

¢ n

Syn.

err

n

err

ner

ner

˙ ˙

&

ppp cresc. a poco a poco

o Ó

14

f S.

° & ˙

˙

˙

ee

pp

f subito

Œ

œ

Ϫ

in

ff

> ≈ œr #˙

Ó

> ‰ ≈ œr #˙

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in my

in mi

-

p

pp

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mf f

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¢ woo

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&

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A

o

f 18

mp

o Œ

mf S.

° #˙ ™ &

> Œ #˙

Œ Ó

Y Ó ¿

nor

ss (unvoiced)

f

mp

p

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Y

ss

ee

(sim.)

(nat.)

di

p pp

ff

o ppp

? <#> ˙

œ Y

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ss (unvoiced)

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&

woo

ee

woo

ee

we

(nat.)

#˙˙ #˙ ˙

#˙˙˙ #˙ ˙ p cresc. a poco a poco

* Voices are manipulated realtime using the EnVerb Audio FX in Logic Pro; the prepared synthesised track is also to be used — see Performance remarks.


2 ff subito 24

p no dim. S.

° œ Œ œ &

p

di

di

ppp

di

diff- er

fer

di

> ‰ ≈#œR #˙

di

diff- er

pp p

? Œ œ™ Bar. ¢

mp

p

f

p

f

p

‰ œ

œ

œ œ ˙

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we

Syn.

ff

> œ Œ Œ ≈#œ #œ œ ‰ #œJ œ #œ œ œ œ

œ ‰ œj œ œ œ

we

œ ˙ J

we

Œ œ

di

Ϫ

diff

er

-

Œ

diff - er

fer

& (cresc. a poco a poco)

B f 29

mf like distant echoes S.

° <#>œ Œ Œ ‰ œ ˙ & J

p

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the

the

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&

fff ff

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f p

34

brillante

S.

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the same

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same

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mf fff

> œ #œ Bar.

? Œ ¢

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>˙ ™

mf

> ‰ ≈ œR

œ Ó

the

same

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##˙˙˙˙ #˙ ˙

&

decresc.

f but not over-powering

o mf f ° ‰ j & œ œ œ œj ‰ Œ

S.

o Œ

f

38

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ma

& pp

-

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3

o Œ

42

S.

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f 47

f S.

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p

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? ˙

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(short 'm')

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&

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f

ff subito 52

S.

° &

non-staccato

#>œ J oo

Œ

Œ

Œ

Πpppp almost inaudible

ppp

? Œ Bar. ¢

œ Ó

≈ ˙™

eɪ 8 q cut off suddenly, leaving reverb. ringing

Syn.

&

####˙˙˙˙˙˙ # ˙˙˙ ˙˙ f

fff (ca. 2:55)

'In minor ways we differ, in major we're the same.' — Maya Angelou (1928-2014), Human Family

Profile for Ji Heng Lee

pe_ple_sc_ns (2017)  

For Soprano, baritone & electronics

pe_ple_sc_ns (2017)  

For Soprano, baritone & electronics

Profile for jihenglee
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