Shoals – Collaborator Briefing (Web Edit) Nigel Morgan – December 2012 With the inclusion of a team of four post-graduate students from Hull University’s Filey Studios, the six Shoals for student ensembles are now moving towards a final shape. Although there are six separate pieces making up Shoals, the plan is to perform them in an unbroken sequence punctuated by an intro and outro and four episodes delivered by the Percussion Ensemble from East Riding. A preliminary running order might be: Blaze: Introduction
Weird Water Land
Blaze: Episode 1
Deep Sea Diver
Blaze: Episode 2
Never Day and Under Night
Blaze: Episode 3
Into the Green Inverted Dawn
Blaze: Episode 4
To the Dark Unseen
There will be no time for changeovers between each piece: a factor that needs serious consideration in the light of preparing software or strategies for performance. Collaborators should be able to begin work with the ensembles in January. Be advised to keep copies of tickets or receipts for your travel costs to be reimbursed along with the commission fee. For an overview of work with the ensembles thus far, visit: http://www.soundingthedeep.co.uk/education-resources/ On the following pages are a series of briefs concerning each piece in Shoals.
Blaze – Introduction, episodes and finale for eight percussionists This music in six sections is scored for eight percussion ‘kits’ made up of standard orchestral percussion, eight handheld instruments chosen by the performers, and live electronic processing – perhaps using Wii wireless gestural controller devices possibly operated by the performers themselves. The musical score will be a mix of conventional notation, graphic ‘box’ notation (as developed by Morton Feldman), and a memorized library of motifs, loops and synchronizing signals.
Sample ‘Box’ notation from the educational workshop with the percussion octet. There will also be a second score superimposed over the music score containing graphic instructions and images relating to gestures and movement to be undertaken by the performers. The piece will involve an intro and outro bringing the percussionists on and off the performance area playing samba band instruments (though not samba music as we know it!). The episodes are played as vivid linking material between each of the remaining Shoals. The electroacoustic part will involve live interaction from two university musicians extending and manipulating percussive sounds. Since machine listening is not viable in this context, university musicians should visit a rehearsal or workshop to record sounds for manipulation.
To the Dark Unseen – for ten-part string ensemble featuring 2 amplified solo violins with live processing, and partial diffusion. This slow, meditative (though slightly menacing) work for string dectet splits the ensemble into two groups made distinctive by a) their tuning and b) their form of muting. The score is almost predominantly made up of open strings and harmonics, but with a tuning configuration providing for a complete Aeolian mode.
The two soloists provide a rich weave of gentle movement around and across the ensemble’s slow progression through a series of sixty five-second ‘moments’.
Sketch abstract of the structure for To the Dark Unseen. The electroacoustic part will subtly colour the texture and diffuse the solo lines around the concert space as though the soloists were swimming sea creatures. This could be attained through the use of processed samples from the ensemble recorded during a workshop/rehearsal, or alternatively using synthesis based around the frequencies of the Aeolian scale.
Weird Water Land – for wind quintet with electroacoustic accompaniment and interventions This single-movement score of composed in July this year is extended significantly to incorporate a series of solos and duos with drones and new introductory ‘harmony music’ allowing electronic extensions of the woodwind quintet sounds to create to effect of the ensemble diving underwater. It is suggested that these sounds will be in 16.1 8-channel surround sound and are practical to rehearse with the ensemble using the university’s portable 8-channel system.
Into the Green Inverted Dawn – for amplified string quartet, live ‘pedal’ processing and games controller. The original score of July 2011 invites a level of player participation in many aspects of its physical performance and structuring. It has been extended with a series of interventions that are in open-form and may be controlled by the players themselves either live or via a pre-ordered play-list. Each performer will play from an ‘active’ score on a wireless-connected laptop with page turns synchronized via a foot pedal operated by the quartet’s leader.
Diagram of the ‘active notation’ system used in Nigel Morgan’s Self Portrait for variable ensemble. They will work directly with a soloist from the university team who will both record, process and trigger sounds from the quartet itself. Although the work can be played without any electroacoustic intervention this concert version will see the four instruments very heavily amplified and using the kind of pedal effects common to electric guitarists.
Never Day and Under Night - for eight-part cello ensemble, laptop performer and sound designer. Two very contrasting pieces make up this Shoal. The first is an explosive descent and ascent using a rich palette of extended cello techniques (already introduced in their June workshop). The second that immediately follows is a slow meditative nocturnal chorale in eight parts, a chorale that has something of the character of a large consort of viols, played without vibrato and muted conventionally (and unconventionally). The electroacoustic backdrop it is hoped will use sampled sounds made and controlled on a laptop by one of the ensemble’s members. Sound design for this piece will see two monitor speakers placed ‘inside’ and amongst the performing group.
Deep Sea Diver – for junior choir and electroacoustic drones The poem by Robert Francis set to music here is the same poem upon which so much of Sounding the Deep in its original setting of March 2011 for bass voice and piano is based. The first part of this setting can be performed as an optional interlude in the concert work Sounding the Deep. This choral version is totally different and bears no relation to the original except in its text. It is entirely new. In addition to the poem singers will be adding choral speaking passages from Beebe’s best-selling book The Log of the Sun. The electroacoustic drone material offers the opportunity for the work to be performed in a version for choir and cello ensemble, a request previously made by the director of the Lincolnshire Cello Ensemble.