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Sheet Music: Score

Phonurgia : music theatre for solo bowed stringed instrument, voice, gramophone & pre-recorded sound, with choreography and lighting / Caroline Wilkins.

by Caroline Wilkins (2010)

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  • Library Availability: 787.3/WIL 2 — Available for loan
  • Instrumentation: Any solo bowed string instrument belonging to the classical repertoire, gramophone with 2 different horns, 78 shellac disc of any solo classical music for the instrument, CD recording of any solo classical music for the stringed instrument, (to be chosen by the performer), 2 CD recordings of pre-recorded music and sound provided by the composer, quadrophonic playback, 2 CD players, mixing board. stage set: table, chair, 4 music stands, pile of shellac discs
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  • Audio Sample

    Performance by Caroline Wilkins from the CD Selected works by AMC represented artists


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The title takes its origin from 'Phonurgia Nova' by Athanasius Kircher published in 1673, a manual on methods of sound amplification using horns of different kinds.

Phonurgia is a work involving an essentially spatial distribution of various sound sources, whether diffused over loudspeakers, through a gramophone horn, or played on a live stringed instrument - in essence, a 'play' between live and virtual musicks. I use the term here to indicate the socio-historical role played by early sound reproducers such the gramophone, that came to replace live salon playing or musicking (as exemplified by the string player) but were still the focal point of social gatherings together with their predecessors: music machines. Indeed virtual musicks are present in Phonurgia, both in the form of shellac and digital recordings, the latter re-producing a recording made on the wax cylinder of a phonograph with all of its additional 'noise' retained. The only 'clean' virtual music to be heard is a digital recording played at the beginning of the work. In confronting vastly different playback methods with each other I am addressing contemporary expectations of sound quality, where increasing refinement and standardisation assume an underlying aesthetic. What is it that has been refined and what have we perhaps ignored in the process? Early recordings reveal an undisguised rawness in their sound. It is exactly this immediacy, this undeniable imperfection of a sound source that I wish to acknowledge: the 'body' or physicality of sound in space.

Published by: Australian Music Centre — 1 facsimile score (23p. -- A4 (portrait))

Difficulty: Advanced — Performance skills in movement & voice needed. Technically difficult passages, experimental techniques of string playing, improvisation ability required.

Duration: 15 min.

Contents note:

Prelude -- scene 1 -- scene II -- scene III -- scene IV -- scene V.

Dedicated to Aleksander Kolkowski

First performance by Phil Owen — 10 Dec 10. Arnolfini, Bristol, UK.

Includes performance directions.

Sound theatre, instrumental music theatre.

This is a handwritten edition — it is not typeset.

ISMN: 979-0-720142-86-9

Related products

This work is also available in the following products:

Selected works by AMC represented artists
CD: Selected works by AMC represented artists : vol. 13 / works by Caroline Wilkins.


- Browse other works for Viola with pre-recorded sound

- Browse other works by Caroline Wilkins

Analysis & Media

- Video: Phonurgia

- Video: Phonurgia by Caroline Wilkins

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