The Final Hour : for studio orchestra, narrator and electronics
by Stuart Greenbaum (2017)
From the CD Final Hour
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I have always been drawn to the idea of concept albums. Four that have been notably influential for me are Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells (1973), Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygene (1976) and Pat Metheny Group's The Way Up (2005). The overlapping tracks and unifying themes intensify the cumulative experience.
In May 2012 I asked long-time collaborator Ross Baglin if he would write a text based on a title concept 'The Final Hour'. I wanted to create a commentary about the perception of the passing of time in our modern new-millennial lives. An hour of time (not just the final hour), and by extension, the duration of a life. I used the text Ross created as a structure for an instrumental studio orchestra with electronics and narration of the text. It is 60 minutes long (to the nanosecond) in 10 overlapping sections in an arch form proportioned around the Fibonacci series.
There is a 2-second gap between two half-hour parts as a nod towards flipping a vinyl record over to the B-side.
I wrote the short score on study leave in the second half of 2013 and orchestrated those lines that could be represented in notation (1,495 bars). Having made it this far, the idea of realizing it in sound seemed a bridge too far and I promptly put it aside for 2 years. But early in 2016 I caught up with Luke Howard and showed him the score. It occurred to me that Luke would be the ideal person to push the recording project forward (not only as a musician but as a producer). And he was interested and available so work re-commenced, including Luke's suggestion to add a rhythm section (keys, bass and drum kit), orchestrating the string section, producing instrumental parts, setting up MIDI and audio technology and developing a strategy for recording. This involved rendering synth lines and recording each individual musician track-by-track, layer-by-layer. This continued on into 2017. By the end of 2018 recording was complete and the work was mixed and mastered.
Instrumentation: Narrator, oboe, soprano saxophone, solo violin, grand piano, 4 synthesizers, distortion guitar, 3 guitars, fretless electric bass, keyboards (electric), acoustic upright bass, drum kit, vibraphone, percussion, strings (minimum 6 players), natural sounds, sound processing.
Duration: 60 min.
Contents note: 1. prelude (1 min) -- 2. pulse and presence (3 min) -- 3. memory jar (5 min) -- 4. speeding car (8 min) -- 5. fate (13 min) -- 6. city towers (13 min) -- 7. thistle seed (8 min) -- 8. stationary trains (5 min) -- 9. the atmosphere (3 min) -- 10. coda (1 min).
Radiophonic work at this stage (could conceivably be played live).
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