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Crystallise: Music for trumpet and electronics. Bede Williams, Alistair MacDonald and Jonathan Kemp

Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products


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One of Jonathan Harvey’s many compositional aims was to humanise the way in which electronics were able to integrate into concert music. Over the course of his career the technology he was able to use changed dramatically: the first performance of the Ricercare una Melodia by Jonathan Impett (trumpet) and John Whiting (electronics) in 1985 would have had Whiting operating reel to reel tape recorders, playing back live recordings of the Impett’s playing at different speeds to create a five-part canon. ‘Ricercare’, meaning literally ‘to seek’, was a common form of composition in the renaissance and baroque periods. Harvey’s ‘Ricercare’ is seeking a melody which once found is augmented at the interval of an octave, a play back of exactly half speed.

Later in his life Harvey’s interest in Buddhism led to among other works the Tibetan inspired Other Presences. Harvey writes ‘the principal idea is that the trumpet is multiplied and becomes present invisibly at other points in space. The sounds are very close to the Tibetan Buddhist open-air ceremonial music which I witnessed on a recent visit to monasteries at and near Rajpur. The ceremonies are rituals of purification.’ Other Presences was commissioned by the Cheltenham International Festival with support from the Cheltenham Festival Society and was written for Markus Stockhausen.

Harvey collaborated with many sound technicians to realise the electronic components of his compositions. One of those collaborators was composer and programmer Professor Michael Clarke, based at the University of Huddersfield. Clarke’s Prism and Cascade were written for and commissioned by Stephen Altoft with funds provided by Yorkshire Arts Council. Both pieces are based on the same harmonic field and conceived for octophonic surround sound; in Prism the harmonic field is first exposed in a ceremony in which prerecorded trumpet sound is deconstructed in the tape part. Live processing in the central section again uses the sonorities of octave transpositions. In the first movement of Cascade the live trumpet is filtered through a series of sweeping filters. The second movement is tour de force of Clarke’s extraordinary compositional control of programming.

All four pieces by Harvey and Clarke have been recorded here with the electronics processed in Max/MSP. The patches for the pieces by Harvey were prepared by Dr Alistair MacDonald, Director of the Electroacoustic Studios at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. In Music for 360° Sunset MacDonald uses his own patch and interface to improvise with the trumpet. The title of this piece comes from a video of the same name by artist Nedyalka Panova that was first exhibited with the accompanying audio in the Byre Theatre for the 2015 St Andrews New Music Week. Panova’s video scrutinises the ‘convulsive beauty’ of light when propagated through silica-based aerogel: the artwork for the album is drawn from stills of the video.


Original languageEnglish
Place of Publication
Media of outputCD
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2015

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