Voice of the shades : soprano with ensemble
by Jennifer Fowler (1977)
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Voice of the Shades is scored for soprano, oboe or
clarinet, and violin or alto flute. Alternatively, the piece can
be performed on three instruments. The main argument is taken by
the first two performers, with the third in a decorative, rather
subservient role, until the middle of the piece, when it becomes
an equal partner.
A musical technique has been forged for this piece: in that the choice of notes in any part of the piece, is carefully restricted, and each note may move to only one or two other notes (or in the most complex section, to 2 or 3 other notes). The choice of notes, however, changes gradually but continuously through the piece. The aim of the restrictions and limitations, is to achieve continuity and echoing, but without using exact repetition.
In devising the words and syllables sung, the composer has tried to create a parallel with the musical technique, in similarly limiting the number of vowels and consonants in use at any one time. The result is that only words here and there are recognisable English words, but enough syllables are reminiscent of real words to convey, perhaps, an echo of the legend of Orfeo, or the poem about the world beyond death: "Spelt from Sybil's Leaves" by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Voice of the Shades was written in 1976\7 and has been performed at a number of international festivals: the I.S.C.M. World Music Days in Helsinki in 1978; the Asian Composers Festival in Hong Kong in 1981; the "Donne in Musica" in Rome, 1981; and the Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music, 1981.
Instrumentation: Soprano, oboe or clarinet, violin ; 2 trumpets, oboe or clarinet ; soprano, oboe or clarinet, flute (doubling alto flute) ; clarinet, oboe, violin or flute (doubling alto flute).
Duration: 16 min.
First performance: May 78. ISCM World Music Days, Helsinki, Finland
Text by the composer.
Performances of this work
1991: Women in Music Festival, Atlanta, USA
1981: Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music, West Yorkshire, England
1981: Donne in Musica festival, Rome
1981: Asian Composers Festival, Hong Kong
12 Dec 78: Musica Viva, Mannheim, Germany
May 78: ISCM World Music Days, Helsinki, Finland
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