Catalogue des Errances Bibliques : Symphony in No Need of an Orchestra, for mixed keyboards, percussion and narrator
by Michael Kieran Harvey (2018, this version: 2019)
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"You can't run a country
By a book of religion
Not by a heap
Or a lump or a smidgeon
Of foolish rules
Of ancient date
Designed to make
You all feel great
While you fold, spindle
From a neighbouring state"
Frank Zappa, "Dumb All Over" (1981)
It came as a delicious and furtive surprise to me as an
8-year-old altar boy to discover that Christ's blood tasted,
apparently, the same as the Woodley's Cream Sherry I found in the
sacristy. This set me wondering about the veracity of the
contents of the Bible, something that Catholics are instructed to
believe is the infallible word of God. It takes a certain type of
dogged personality to be willing to sift through such a text for
either fallibilities or infallibilities - most Christians simply
accept what clerics tell them is in the bible and get on with
their busy lives.
Happily, C. Dennis McKinsey devoted much of his life and his energies as a broadcaster to the task of uncovering "biblical errancy", and his forensic book The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Prometheus Books, 1995) is the result. In the spirit of the musical The Book of Mormon (Parker/Lopez/Stone, 2011) and with an affectionate nod to Messiaen's Catalogue d'Oiseaux (1958), Catalogue des Errances Bibliques whimsically reinterprets each of the 25 chapters of The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy as a homage to its punctilious author. In keeping with McKinsey's low-budget resourcefulness, Catalogue des Errances Bibliques is scored not for symphony orchestra, but for two nondescript keyboards.
There is also a re-interpretation of the work for nondescript keyboards and percussion. The text Bible Stories was composed specifically for this version by Dr Arjun von Caemmerer. (MKH).
Year: 2018, this version: 2019
Instrumentation: Spoken voice, keyboards (min 8 players: 2 Grand Pianos; at least 4 full-keyboard synthesizers/electric pianos; Theremin, harpsichord and celeste or similar electronic sounds) ; percussion (min 4 players: 2x Timpani, snare drum, tenor drum, bass drum, cymbals, drum set, electronic/latin drum set, tubular bells, glockenspiel, marimba, vibraphone (with bow), 5x log drums (or tom-toms), anvil, 5x temple blocks, high and low gongs, tam-tam, swanee whistle or sim, crotales (D, F, F#, A), ratchet, large frame drum/dumbeck (amplified), strings (optional): electric bass, amplified cello (both can be substituted with keyboards if necessary).
Duration: 65 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Virtuosic writing, high ensemble synchronisation and improvising skill required
Dedication note: Dedicated to Arjun Von Caemmerer
Commission note: Commissioned by RMIT Sonic Arts Collection.
First performance: 25 May 19. Australian National Academy of Music, Melbourne
The composer notes the following styles, genres, influences, etc associated with this work:
Jazz-rock, "avant-pop", alternative rock genres: Spike Jones, Frank Zappa, John Zorn, Eastern European rock.
Performances of this work
25 May 19: Australian National Academy of Music, Melbourne
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