Patrick Harrex

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Programme Notes

…a glimpse of a white bird…
A Klee Diptych
Antiphonies
Aria for Solo Trumpet (Passages VII)
Being Beauteous
Canzone
Chant
Chorale II
Colloquy
Concatenation
Conjugation …a little journey…
Consolamentum
Corale Interrotto
… dreams, shadows, and smoke
Duo for Violin and Piano
Elaborations
Haiku
Hauptweg und Nebenwege
Invention (Passages VIII)
Landscape (44 x 121)
Les Pyrénées
Lux Aeterna
Memoriale
Narnian Suite
Night Music
Objects in Space
Passages V
Passages IX
Piano Pie
Résonances
Rhythm of Black Lines
Sampler
Six Chansons Bas
Sonata for Female Voice, Flute and Percussion
Three Shakespeare Songs
Towards Equilibrium
……un dolce lume……
Veni, Sancte Spiritus
Windows I

 

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Any of these programme notes, including extracts thereof, may be freely reproduced on condition that the composer’s copyright or other authorship is acknowledged.


…a glimpse of a white bird…

 

The title, and the starting point, for this brief work is taken from a poem by the Japanese poet Ysano Akiko (1878-1942). She writes of seeing a white bird over the breaking sea, with which vision she falls obsessively in love.

The first performance was given by the Tacet Ensemble in St Nicholas Church, Brighton, on 22 May 2002.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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A Klee Diptych

 

I - Secondary Lines

Like Conjugation (2001) for two pianos, sub-titled …a little journey…, Secondary Lines, has its starting point in the works and theories of Paul Klee. The two compositions also share common musical material.

Specific Klee influences to be found in Secondary Lines are the example given in his Pedagogical Sketchbook of ‘Two secondary lines, moving around an imaginary main line’ and his verbal illustration of how a line can develop into a picture, quoted by Werner Haftmann in ‘The Mind and Work of Paul Klee’: ‘…suppose we plot a topographical map and make a little journey into the land of fuller understanding. [Starting from a point, a line,] after a short time [we] pause to draw breath (broken line or, if repeated, rhythmically interrupted line). A backward look to see how far we have already gone (counter-movement), weighing up intellectually the distance between here and there (bundle of lines). A river seeks to hinder us, we take advantage of a boat (wavy movement)…. On the other side of the river we meet someone with the same ideas, who also wants to go where he can find greater understanding. At first we are united in joy (convergence, then gradually differences intrude (two lines moving independently). A certain excitement on both sides (expression, dynamism, and psyche of line). We cross an untended field (surface traversed by lines) - then dense forest… I am no longer quite cool: another river is lost in fog. But this is soon left behind. Basket weavers are going home with their cart (the wheel); beside them is a child with the funniest curls (spiral movement). Later it becomes muggy and nocturnal. A flash of lighting on the horizon (zigzag line). Over our heads the stars are still apparent (a series of dots). Soon our first sleeping quarters are reached. Before we fall asleep, much will recur in our memory, for even such a brief journey is full of impressions.’

Although not intended to illustrate Klee’s ‘little journey’, elements of his story may be identified within the music.

II - Snake Paths

The second of the two movements is an interpretation of Klee’s Schlangenwege of 1934. In the painting the snake is depicted across the centre of the picture but there are numerous ‘shadows’, which may be marks made in sand by the snake or images of current or earlier movements across the same space by this or one or more other snakes. Visually and in my music, the result is that a number of single lines are superimposed to create polyphony.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Antiphonies

 

Antiphonies, written in 1967, is scored for double wind quintet, the second quintet consisting of alto flute, cor anglais doubling oboe, bass clarinet doubling clarinet, bassoon and horn.

There are three sections, to be played without a break. The first, “Introit”, and third, “Recessional”, form a frame to the second and longest section, “Litany”.

“Introit” begins with a clarinet solo, to which the other members of the first quintet respond with a ‘block’ of sound, consisting of sustained notes for each instrument but with durations for each one not being defined so that the sounds overlap to create a changing ‘sound block’. The second quintet echoes the first. In “Recessional” the process is reversed, this time with the alto flute emerging as the solo instrument from the ‘sound blocks’.

“Litany”, after a brief introductory passage, consists of three sub-sections, linked by a refrain which uses the same material each time but in varying order. It ends with a short coda which is similar to the introduction.

Antiphonies was first performed by the Portia Wind Ensemble in the Purcell Room, London, on 16th November 1967.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Aria for Solo Trumpet (Passages VII)

 

Aria was written for Chris Gasson who gave the first performance on 24th May 2002 in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham.

This relatively short work explores a variety of qualities and characteristics of the instrument. Although it was not originally conceived as part of the series, I have given it the sub-title Passages VII to link it to a number of other similar works written over a period of more than 30 years for solo or small groups of instruments.

The title chosen for the group of works, Passages, has a range of meanings. It was also first applied to a piece for solo violin written while I was living in Paris, so the word should perhaps be considered as French even though the spelling and meaning (broadly) of the English word is the same. Somehow, though, the French seems to imply rather more or perhaps it is just the sound of the language that gives it a broader, perhaps even romantic, feeling!

A ‘passage’ is, among other things, variously a journey, a process of moving forward in time, a narrow and perhaps confined or restricted way, a channel, a process of transition from one state to another, a short extract. It is also, of course, the description of a section of a piece of music and there is an interesting medical definition relating to the process of propagating cells in host organisms so as to maintain or modify those cells. Each of these definitions presents ideas that may be developed in a piece of music.

Aria starts with a very slow statement of its basic three-note cell. Over the length of the work this is expanded and developed not just to create some fairly complex chromatic moments but also occasions when the music becomes almost diatonic. The sounds sometimes go beyond the normal, for example by introducing the percussive effect of valve clicks and even at the very beginning calling on the performer to blow through the instrument without producing a definite tone.

There are rhythmic developments that parallel those of pitch. The opening section, written without barlines, is very free so virtually without rhythm. Even when a specified tempo is introduced it is a little while before it settles down or can be clearly identified because of the improvisatory nature of the writing, including normal and ‘written out’ accelerandos. With the exception of the opening, however, the rhythmic notation is generally very precise. For practical as well as musical reasons, pauses and short breaks, measured and unmeasured, are introduced from time to time. The contrast of complex and simple rhythms and sometimes quite static moments, gives a feeling of flexibility and perhaps even of improvisation throughout the work.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Being Beauteous

 

This work sets Rimbaud’s words ‘Oh! nos os sont revêtus d’un nouveau corps amoureux’ [Oh! our bones are reclad with an amorous new body], a line from ‘Being Beauteous’ [Les Illuminations] - his title is in English. The soprano uses a variety of vocal techniques, occasionally singing into the open piano and striking the inside of the piano. All these sounds are also picked up and modified using live electronics.

The way the words are set results quite often in their not being immediately intelligible. This is deliberate! Other parts of this poem contain references to ‘whistlings of death’, ‘rounds of muffled music’, ’harsh music’ and other evocative images. The setting is, therefore, more of a commentary on the whole poem than a traditional interpretation of the selected text.

Being Beauteous was first performed by Debbie Bridge, soprano, and the composer (assisted by Ric Graebner), live electronics, at Brighton College on 15 May 2004.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Canzone

 

Canzone is derived from the double bass part of Chorale II, for double bass and eight instruments. Both works were commissioned by, and dedicated to, Stephen Phillips, who gave the first performance of Canzone in Brighton on 1st July 2005.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Chant

 

Written in 1968 and slightly revised in 1969, this is a short piece for solo violin. While it may still be performed alone as a solo violin work, it has since been incorporated into Duo for violin and piano.

It was conceived while the composer was on holiday in Burgundy and is a reflection on the variety of bird song that could be heard around the cottage that the composer was staying in. The result is not a ‘Messiaen style’ of bird song piece, but is more of an interpretation in violinistic terms of the chattering and melodic sounds of the birds.

Chant was written for and is dedicated to Ellie Blackshaw who gave the first performance on 16th May 1998 in the Chapel Royal, Brighton.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Chorale II

 

Chorale II is one of three short works (Chorales I, II and III) commissioned by Stephen Phillips from members of New Music Brighton, the collective of composers in the Sussex area, the other two composers being Barry Mills (Chorale I) and John Alexander (Chorale III). The three works are linked only by their titles and the instrumentation, with a prominent part for the double bass.

Chorale II takes as its starting point one of J.S. Bach’s harmonisations of the chorale melody Christ lag in Todesbanden. This is given to the four wind instruments (cor anglais, bass clarinet, bassoon and French horn) which over five repetitions of the chorale develop the harmonies, which in Bach’s version are already quite complex, while retaining the melody largely in its original form. The string quartet (violin, two violas and cello) adds ‘commentaries’, mostly in the form of sustained chords but occasionally joining in the rhythmic movement of the wind parts. The bass, beginning the work alone, adopts an essentially independent line which, because of its prominence - essentially a virtuosic concertante part - reduces the chorale harmonisation to an accompaniment. However, for the last repetition of the chorale melody the nine instruments come closer together, harmonically and rhythmically, with the bass taking over the melody.

© Patrick Harrex

 

Christ lag in Todesbanden                     Christ lay in death’s bondage

Für unser Sünd gegeben,                      For all our sin sacrificed;

Der ist wieder erstanden                       He is now again risen                       

Und hat uns bracht das Leben.              And has to us brought new life.

Des wir sollen fröhlich sein,                   For this we shall be joyful,

Gott loben und ihm dankbar sein           Praising God and giving thanks

Und singen Halleluja                             And singing Hallelujah

Halleluja!                                             Hallelujah!

 

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Colloquy

 

In this musical conversation for clarinet, violin, cello and piano, the performers are given considerable freedom and must make particular judgements as to how they contribute. For example, they must determine, sometimes as individuals and sometimes with one or more other players, the length of pauses, the rate at which passages get faster or slower, how they chose to play notes outside any given tempo and the speed of groups of notes marked slow, fast or as fast as possible.

The opening clarinet solo leads to a passage for all the instruments in which fragmentary arabesques oscillate around the note A. The piano then begins to dominate and eventually it is the pianist who becomes primarily responsible for determining the duration of events. A piano cadenza, forming the work’s climax, asserts that instrument’s supremacy although the clarinet has the last word in another solo passage lightly accompanied by the other instruments.

This is a relatively early work, written in 1967, and was awarded first prize in the 1968 BBC Composers’ Competition.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Concatenation

 

I   - Anakrousis

II  - Concatenation

III - Memoriale

The title (a chain of connected events) reflects principally the compositional process of the central section of this work - three groups of four notes form the basis of the melodic and harmonic structure, being linked by common notes in various transpositions. The basic material is presented in the short opening section (anakrousis - ‘a striking up’). The third section (memoriale), written as a memorial to former New Music Brighton member Tony Sions, and now also existing as a separate work for clarinet and string orchestra, uses the plainsong antiphon to Psalm 146 (While I live I will praise the Lord), the clarinet presenting distorted versions of the plainsong, which can be related to earlier material, accompanied by the other instruments playing the original plainsong very slowly in unison.

Concatenation was first performed at a New Music Brighton concert in 2000 and was slightly revised in 2005.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Conjugation …a little journey…

 

Conjugate, v.t. to give the various inflections or parts of (a verb) (gram.): to unite (biochemistry).  - v.i. to undergo inflection (gram): to unite. - adj. joined: connected: coupled: occurring in pairs (bot.): reciprocally related: of two complex numbers, having their real parts equal and their imaginary parts equal but of opposite sign (math.). - n. a word agreeing in derivation with another word: anything conjugate with another - joined, or from the same root, or reciprocally related. - n. conjugation  the act of joining: union: a connected view or statement of the inflectional forms of a verb (gram.): a class of verbs similarly inflected (gram.)…

Chambers English Dictionary

 

The miniature but exploratory nature of this work for two pianos led me to add the subtitle as a homage to Paul Klee. His pictures, most of which are small scale, and writings make frequent cross references between painting and music. In one of his lectures* he imagined making ‘a little journey’, exploring progressively the characteristics of the line, a broken (‘rhythmically interrupted’) line and ‘bundles of lines’. Meeting someone with the same ideas we experience ‘convergence’ and ‘then differences’ (‘two lines moving independently’), and so on. Klee concludes that ‘even … a brief journey is full of impressions’.

Conjugation was given its first performance on 2 June 2001 by Nicolas Hodges and Rolf Hind, in the Assembly Rooms, Bath, during the 2001 Bath International Music Festival in a programme presented by spnm.

* quoted in ‘The Mind and Work of Paul Klee’, Werner Haftmann, p 95 (Faber)

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Consolamentum

 

I was delighted when Stephen Phillips asked me to prepare anarrangement of Dudley Hyams’ double bass concerto, a task which has given me enormous pleasure. Sadly, I knew the composer for only a very short time, but over recent years I have continued to enjoy hearing his music and discovering more of it - including this splendid work.

Clearly, the task of reducing the original number of accompanying players from 17 to the nine I was asked to use, even allowing for the availability of a pianist, has presented a number of challenges.

At the outset I set myself a number of objectives. The composer used a fairly complex compositional process and it was important, to maintain the integrity of this aspect of the work, to ensure that all the notes in the original version were contained in my arrangement. This I have done, although some octave transpositions have been necessary. Also, as far as possible, I have tried to follow the composer’s original choice of instruments, particularly for ‘soloistic’ passages. Sometimes, however, it has been necessary to replace an instrument; for example, although in this arrangement a bass clarinet is used, there is only one clarinet player so that in one or two places I have used the bassoon to avoid difficult if not impossible instrument changes by the clarinettist. I have also given the solo double bass player even more to do! The original instrumentation included two double basses in addition to the soloist, so in this arrangement the solo player has some additional passages, marked ‘tutti’ to distinguish them from the solo passages - rather in the nature of a baroque concerto grosso - in order to retain some of the original bass sounds.

An important feature of the original version was the physical separation of the ensemble’s 12 string instruments - divided into two groups of six, one on either side of the soloist. The composer used this special separation to particular effect in a number of places. For this arrangement it has inevitably been necessary to compromise this use of physical separation and the aural effect it creates in the original. It is here that I have departed somewhat from the composer’s design, but I hope in a way that presents the contrasting effects at least in a way which is still in the spirit of the original.

Incidental to making the arrangement, I have also found myself taking on to a small degree the role of editor. I have taken the opportunity to correct a few errors in the finished version of the original work. I have retained the convention adopted by the composer of placing an accidental before each note. I am grateful to Stephen Phillips for giving me access to the composer’s workings and for his advice generally.

I hope that this arrangement conveys as much as possible of theoriginal intentions of the composer by retaining his creation as far as I can. Where changes have been made, this has been with the intention of presenting the work in a manner which is both sympathetic to the composer’s original conception and in a form which will facilitate wider performances.

The dedication, to Gerald Brinnen and Stephen Phillips, is the composer’s and, of course, it is appropriate to adopt the same joint dedication for this arrangement.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Corale Interrotto

 

The title may be translated interrupted chorale or broken unanimity. The work is a chorale-like sequence, played as clusters, interrupted from time to time in various ways. At specified points either player may break off to play inside the piano - either percussive or sustained sounds. The ‘cluster chorale’ is also interrupted once by one pianist who plays the chorale melody Christ lag in Todesbanden (Christ lay in death’s bondage), in this version using a harmonisation borrowed from my Chorale II for double bass and 8 instruments. The latter work takes as its starting point one of Bach’s harmonisations, which were themselves fairly adventurous, expanding the vertical intervals, so taking the sounds even further away from any traditional harmonic basis. The second player, meanwhile, is instructed to (gently!) place objects inside the piano to dampen and possibly distort still further the chorale.

Corale Interrotto was first performed by Glen Capra and Kevin Allen on 8th March 2006 in the Friends’ Meeting House, Brighton.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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… dreams, shadows, and smoke

 

A reflective work prompted by the poetry of Petrarch, from which the title is taken. It received it first performance, in a version for flute, viola and guitar, on 15 May 2005 in Brighton Unitarian Church, by Rachel Smith, flute, Ellie Blackshaw, viola, and Paul Gregory, guitar. The work was given its first performance in its original version, for flute, viola and harp, by the Trio Taffanel, on 28 July 2007 in Westgate Chapel, Lewes.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Duo for Violin and Piano

 

Although completed in 2001, each of the three movements had existed separately, if in a different form, for some time.

The first movement (Chant) was composed in 1998 as a piece for solo violin. It takes as its starting point the chattering sounds of birds heard during a holiday in Burgundy. A simple piano part has been added, which both complements the violin part and anticipates chords which appear in the following two movements. (The violin part of Chant may be performed on its own, as a stand-alone work.)

The second movement (Plexus), completed in 2000, has an underlying structure linking a network of various pitch and rhythmic transpositions and developments of the phrase heard at the beginning in the violin. This is perhaps of more relevance to the composer than to the listener as these technical aspects, which explain the title, are merely a means to the end of creating something which in its mood hovers between scherzo and slow movement.

The final movement, although composed in its present form in 2001, uses material from a solo violin piece (Passages I) written while I was a student in Paris in 1968.

Although composed at quite different times, there turns out to be much common ground in the material of each of the separate works, so their being drawn together to form this single Duo became a quite natural process.

Ellie Blackshaw has given the first performances of both Chant and the complete Duo.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Elaborations

 

Elaborations is a reworked version of my Sampler for piano. The latter's title refers to the work of embroidery in which letters or mottoes are presented as examples of the embroiderer's skill. My work is now presented in more varied colours, if you like, not in the simple black and white timbres of the piano. It is in six short sections, each with different features.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Haiku

 

Haiku, for piano, was commissioned by John Alexander for Andrew Melvin’s ‘Haiku project’, a collection of short solo piano works by various composers based on Haiku poetry.

The work was first performed on 20th November 2005 by Andrew Melvin at the Steyning Centre, Fletchers Croft, Steyning, West Sussex.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Hauptweg und Nebenwege

 

The title of this work is borrowed from Paul Klee’s painting of 1929. Klee’s structure is essentially linear and grid-like, but the subtle colours and network of lines that make up paths (the ‘byways’ - Nebenwege) which are not quite parallel to the ‘highway’ (Hauptweg), create variety and movement in the landscape.

Hauptweg und Nebenwege starts from and develops material used in another work of mine inspired by Klee: Conjugation for two pianos, the subtitle of which, …a little journey…, alludes to Klee’s examination of the characteristics of the line and its progress, ‘rhythmically interrupted’, ‘convergence’ and so on, in his lectures. Klee’s conclusion was that ‘even … a brief journey is full of impressions’.

The music proceeds by a series of events, some of which bring a few or all of the instruments together either in chords, both short and sustained, or in moments of counterpoint or homophony, as at the opening of the work. These ‘tutti’ passages may be seen as the ‘highway’ (Hauptweg). Other events are more like the ‘byways’ (Nebenwege), including not just solo passages or short interjections, but also parallel or otherwise unrelated events. For example, at the very beginning low instruments, cello, tuba and horn, introduce almost imperceptibly quiet sustained notes beneath the frenetic ‘tutti’ passages played by the clarinets, saxophones and piano. There are moments throughout the work when each instrument appears to become quite independent of the others, but from time to time they are brought back together. There are also ambiguous relationships, for example in a passage for the lower wind instruments about three quarters through the work, when each plays very short notes with similar characteristics but with little rhythmic relationship between the instruments. The final bars bring all the strands together, but is this a convergence on the highway or a panoramic view of the byways? Listeners will each have their own impressions of this little journey.

Hauptweg und Nebenwege was given its first performance on 17 May 2003, at the Centre des Arts Pluriels, Ettelbruck, Luxembourg, by the Luxembourg Sinfonietta conducted by Marcel Wengler as part of the Final Concert of the International Composition Competition ‘Luxembourg 2003’, at which the work was awarded 2nd prize. A recording is available from Editions LGNM: Luxembourg Sinfonietta No. 403.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Invention (Passages VIII)

 

Invention was written for Jonathan Warburton who gave the first performance on 31st October 2005 at the Sydney Conservatorium.

This relatively short work explores a variety of qualities and characteristics of the instrument.

The title ‘Invention’ is borrowed from Bach; the work is actually constructed in three superimposed parts, each of which has its particular character. These three ‘voices’ are combined and presented in single-line format in the score. In fact, Bach distinguished his three-part works by calling them ‘Sinfonias’ and in due course I plan to write an expanded version of Invention, adding parts for strings, with the new work having the title Sinfonia.

The sub-title Passages VIII links Invention to a number of other similar works written over a period of more than 30 years for solo or small groups of instruments. Passages, has a range of meanings. I first applied it to a piece for solo violin written while I was living in Paris, so the word should perhaps be considered as French even though the spelling and meaning (broadly) of the English word is the same. Somehow, though, the French seems to imply rather more or perhaps it is just the sound of the language that gives it a broader, perhaps even romantic, feeling!

A ‘passage’ is, among other things, variously a journey, a process of moving forward in time, a narrow and perhaps confined or restricted way, a channel, a process of transition from one state to another, a short extract. It is also, of course, the description of a section of a piece of music and there is an interesting medical definition relating to the process of propagating cells in host organisms so as to maintain or modify those cells. Each of these definitions presents ideas that may be developed in a piece of music.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Landscape (44 x 121)

 

A landscape may appear static, but there is always movement. The wind moves trees, flowers and grass. Birds, animals and insects move about in it. It changes with the seasons and in the long term there may be erosion caused by wind and rain or deposits in river beds may build up to change its character.

This short work - it lasts about seven and a half minutes - reflects the natural scene. The overall structure is based on a series of very slow moving chords which grow out of a high cello A. Successive chords are linked by one or more common notes, so the changes are generally gradual. Repeated notes in each instrument create most of the movement, particular when one or more introduce tuplets, setting up more complex rhythmic patterns. Occasionally a group of instruments breaks into this static atmosphere with brief flurries of sounds.

The tempo remains the same throughout, but there are times when the introduction of shorter or longer notes gives the impression of change, most obviously towards the end where the ‘slowing down’ happens because the notes get longer and longer and the chords resolve into the note A, from which the work began, held in octaves across all eleven instruments.

The inclusion of (44 x 121) in the title is an allusion to painted landscapes - 44 is the number of individual strings (the double bass does not go below its bottom E) and 121 is the number of bars in the work. In particular, the setting up of rhythmic patterns in a fairly static situation by repeating notes at different speeds in two or more instruments is a response to the paintings of Paul Klee, especially those that are themselves influenced by the patterns and rhythms of landscapes.

The experience of listening to this work, from its beginning to its end, should be compared with scanning a panorama or a painting from left to right, to take in the overall perspective rather than to explore specific points or to expect the development of particular ideas.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Les Pyrénées

 

This ‘cantata’ is scored for soprano, a reciter, small chorus, chamber orchestra including percussion and piano and a separate group (2 players) of metal, pitched and unpitched, percussion. It was written in 1967 for the opening in March 1968 of the Central Hall of the University of York.

Two poems are used. “Pyrénées”, by Rene Char is always sung, either by the soprano soloist or the chorus, and the sonnet “Les Pyrénées”, by Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas (1544-1590), being spoken rather as a commentary on the Char.

In performance the soloists and each group of performers are, ideally, widely spaced around the audience to create actual voids, as between mountain peaks, across which the sounds must pass before they mingle.

The first performance was given on 9th March 1968 by Noelle Barker, soprano, Eric Hawkins, speaker, and the University of York Chamber Choir and Orchestra, conducted by the composer, at a concert to mark the opening of the Central Hall, University of York.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Lux Aeterna

 

This setting of the Latin hymn, which more usually appears as part of a requiem, was written in 1999 and revised a year later. It was commissioned by the West Barnes Singers who gave its first performance.

The work is scored for mixed chorus and organ.

There is a sense of stillness (it never rises above piano) and simplicity throughout the work. It opens with a series of organ chords, all using the notes G, D, A, E, C, in to which the chorus ‘tunes’. After a brief organ interlude, the hymn proceeds with the sopranos singing conventionally almost entirely throughout with the other voices generally reinforcing certain syllables or sometimes a single consonant in sung or percussive tones. The organ similarly, after its interlude, has a purely supportive role, sometimes anticipating or prolonging the vocal notes. The work ends with the sopranos and altos singing the same sustained chord (a niente) with which it opened.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Memoriale

 

This is a long slow melody for clarinet accompanied by string orchestra. The accompaniment, in unison with the lower strings two octaves below the upper strings, is the plainsong antiphon to Psalm 146, which sets the words Laudabo Deum meum in vita mea (I will praise my God while I live), this being played twice, also very slowly, the second time a semitone lower than before.

This short piece is an arrangement of one movement of Concatenation, for clarinet, horn, violin and cello completed in 2000 and first performed during the Brighton Festival that year. This particular movement, in its original version and in this arrangement for clarinet and strings, was written in memory of a friend who died while I was writing Concatenation; a fellow composer who was also a brilliant clarinettist and saxophonist, as well as being the family solicitor.

memoriale was first performed on 27th October 2002 in St Patrick’s Church, Soho Square, London, by Peter Wood, clarinet, and the Alethian Orchestra, conducted by David Fellingham.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Narnian Suite

 

This is a setting of two poems by C. S Lewis; March for Strings, Kettledrum, and Sixty-three Dwarfs and March for Drum, Trumpet and Twenty-one Giants. It was commissioned by Argo Record Company for ‘Voices’, an anthology of poetry and music compiled by the late Geoffrey Summerfield who at the time was a lecturer in the English and Education Departments of the University of York, where the composer was a student. The scoring is for a group of (amateur) instrumentalists and children speaking in chorus, representing the dwarfs and the giants.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Night Music

 

Night Music, written in 1995 and revised in 2000, is a cycle of seven short poems, selected by the composer and connected only by their common references to ‘night’, by the contemporary American poet John Gracen Brown set for soprano and string quartet. The simplicity of the language has been matched by a relatively direct musical style. Only in the sixth, and longest, song does the music rise above mezzo forte and display any significant rhythmic complexity.

The revised version of the work was given its first performance by Debbie Bridge, soprano, and the Kingfisher String Quartet, in the church of St Mary the Virgin, Brighton, on 14th October 2002.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Objects in Space

 

The work is an interpretation of Paul Klee’s Nichtskomponiertes im Raum [Uncomposed objects in space] [1929]. This picture, in watercolour and ink, shows a number of objects, mostly geometric but including human and animal forms, which have little relationship to each other except that they exist together in the space created by Klee.

In objects in space each performer has identical instructions about how to perform the work. These instructions provide a framework and set out the character of the work, calling for the instruments always to be played quietly and providing guidance on the speed and duration of the notes. However, the actual notes and the total duration of the work are not defined.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Passages V

 

This is one of a number of works, mainly for solo instruments, which can be described as compositional studies in which particular characteristics of the respective instruments are examined in detail.

Passages V, for organ, was written in 1974 for Andrew Charity who gave the first performance at Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, London, on 25th June 1974.

The basic material is a plainsong melody which is used in a number of variations and ‘distortions’, the intervals being expanded or contracted, to create melodic and harmonic patterns. Among the characteristics of the organ that are exploited are its ability to sustain notes and the effect of altering tone colours by adding and taking away stops while a note or chord is sustained.

It is ideally suited to fairly large organs.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Passages IX

 

Passages IX is one of a series of short works for solo instruments or voice or small ensembles, the earliest of which date from my student days in Paris.

The generic title (originally French, but which can be read as the English word) was chosen because of its variety of meanings, or nuances.

A ‘passage’ is, among other things, a journey, a process of moving forward in time, a narrow and perhaps confined or restricted alleyway or corridor, a channel, a process of transition from one state to another, a short extract from a literary or musical work. Each of these definitions presents ideas that may be developed in a piece of music.

There is also an interesting biological definition, given that a number of my Passages have been developed into other works, which relates to the process of propagating cells in host organisms so as to maintain or modify those cells and allow them to multiply. Passages I for solo violin grew into Conséquences for viola and piano. Conséquences in turn provided material for the third movement of my Duo for violin and piano and for Résonances, for viola and four instruments. Passages VIII for solo bass trombone will be the starting point for a more extensive work for trombone and strings.

A common characteristic of my Passages is the use of short phrases which explore certain technical or physical aspects of the instrument(s) or voice(s). While these may be isolated, perhaps momentary, events, they connect together to take us on a journey around the subject instrument or voice - usually a small scale expedition rather than an intensive examination.

Passages IX was given its first performance on 28th October 2005 by David Jenner and Jon Rattenbury in Brighton Unitarian Church.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Piano Pie

 

The material for this short work is taken largely from Chopin’s Nocturne in E flat major, opus 9, no. 2. There are brief quotations from one or two of Chopin's other piano pieces and some of my own additions.

When trying to find a title, the taskbar on my computer screen came to my help - Piano Pie being shown as the abbreviated version of the working name I had adopted. The relevance of this happy coincidence was confirmed when I looked up ‘pie’ in the New Oxford Dictionary of English. This told me that the origin of the word (meaning a baked dish of fruit, or meat and vegetables, typically with a top and base of pastry) is Middle English: various combinations of ingredients being compared to objects randomly collected by a magpie.

Piano Pie collects together, not really in a random way but certainly organised differently than by Chopin, passages from the Nocturne and elsewhere. Phrases are sometimes fragmented to leave just the skeleton of the original. At other times short phrases and, for example in a waltz-like section towards the end, longer sections are superimposed to create (even more!) harmonically ambiguous or discordant passages. The work is a response to the experience of hearing a quite remarkable Chopin recital in the church of St Julien le Pauvre, Paris, in May 2000. Not being a pianist, I had never before paid much attention to Chopin’s music. On this occasion I was repeatedly struck by the adventurous nature of the music - harmonically and technically - as well as by the melodic lines which, perhaps owing as much to the performer as the composer, seemed more like the sounds of the human voice than the piano; at times perhaps superhuman as the sounds floated up and away into the air. Piano Pie is, therefore, a reflection on some of those revelatory moments. 

Piano Pie is dedicated to Michael Finnissy who gave the first performance on 21st March 2004 at The Steyning Centre, Steyning, West Sussex.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Résonances

 

Written in 1999, this is another and partly re-composed version of “Conséquents” for viola and piano, itself a reworking of an earlier solo violin piece. Résonances is scored for viola - a sort of obbligato part - with the accompaniment of clarinet, violin, cello and piano.

After an opening flourish, the viola tremolandi develop into an extended solo line, adding a variety of attacks and harmonics to natural sounds. The accompanying instruments add echoes and decorations. After a series of loud pizzicato chords on the viola there are a few moments of relative quiet before the focal point of the work which is a series of repeated chords at varying dynamic levels in which the five instruments come together, separated by silences. The style of the first part of the work returns, but generally the mood is more agitated towards the end.

The first performance was given by members of Première Crew (Bridget Carey, viola, Andrew Sparling, clarinet, Dominic Saunders, piano, David le Page, violin, Zoe Martlew, cello, Richard Baker, conductor) at the Warehouse, London, in a concert promoted by spnm on 4th December 2000.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Rhythm of Black Lines

 

The title of this short work is borrowed from the painter Piet Mondrian. His painting Rhythm of Black Lines (1935-42) follows the familiar grid structure which dominates his later works. There are four horizontal and seven vertical lines which stretch across the whole canvas. The vertical lines are unevenly spaced, giving a strong sense of movement. The picture is predominantly black and white, with small areas of blue, yellow and red.

My work was not originally intended as any form of musical interpretation of Mondrian’s painting, but in looking for a title there appeared to me to be several common areas. Notated music is, generally, a series of black lines. There are four parts, or horizontal lines, in my work. The basic material is relatively simple but, by layering the parts, more complex patterns emerge, although there are moments of inactivity/ silence. The tam-tam at the beginning and end of the work creates a different colour from the ‘monochrome’ of the brake drums or, if you like, a frame for the sounds that they weave together.

The structure of my Rhythm of Black Lines is quite simple: the four players, who have two brake drums each (the 8 brake drums must each be of a different pitch), perform the same material five times, but because they start one after the other and there are spaces of varying duration between repeats, they set up constantly changing melodic and harmonic patterns within what becomes a fairly constant rhythmic pattern. Only for the fifth and final time do all the players come together, playing in rhythmic unison. The overall effect may be likened to that of a (very small) gamelan in that each of the four players is responsible for only part of the whole body of sound.

The allocation of the brake drums between the players is up to them, giving them some choice in the sounds that are created. The choice of sticks is also left to the performers. Any tempo within the range crotchet = 54 to 72 may be selected. The result of these variables, particularly of tempo and sticks, is that it is possible to give each performance of the work a different characteristic; for example a very bright effect will be achieved if played at the faster tempo with very hard mallets whereas the adoption of a slow tempo with the use of softer mallets will produce a more sombre result. Indeed, I encourage performers to experiment with the different effects which may be achieved from this limited material.

(If brake drums are not available, they may be replaced by instruments with similar properties, such as steel drums (1 per player), cow bells, woodblocks, biscuit/coffee tins.)

Rhythm of Black Lines received its first performance on 12th May 2005 by Brake Drum Assembly (Paul Burnell, Karen Hunt, Oli Mayne and Billy Strachan) at the Sussex Arts Club, Brighton.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Sampler

 

Sampler takes its title from the term used to describe a work of embroidery in which letters or mottoes are presented as examples of the embroiderer’s skill. It is in six short sections which very briefly explore certain aspects of piano technique and the qualities of the instrument. The work grows out of the notes E flat (Es in German) and C - a little ‘postcard’ to Stephanie Cant for whom it was written and who gave the first performance on 5th May 2001 in Brighton’s Chapel Royal.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Six Chansons Bas

 

The ‘vulgar songs’ (songs of common people) by Mallarmé express in just a few words a variety of observations on ordinary life, sometimes quite perceptive and at others simply rather rude or even a little risqué. No doubt deliberately, they are less elegant than some of his more well known poems.

My original settings of six of the poems, composed in Paris during the autumn of 1968, were sketches for a more extended work for soprano and instrumental ensemble, to have included instrumental interludes and commentaries. The projected work never materialised - although perhaps one day it may still do so - but the original version was slightly revised in 2002 as a set of short songs for soprano and piano and first performed by Debbie Bridge, soprano, and Glen Capra, in Brighton on 30 March 2004.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Sonata for Female Voice, Flute and Percussion

 

Composed in 1966 and published in 1969 by Ars Viva (London), a division of Schott & Co, the texts of this four-movement piece are poems by E.E. Cummings: “in Just-”, “who knows if the moon’s”, “because it’s” and “(listen)”. The title ‘Sonata’ refers neither to classical forms nor to any dissolution of words into pure sound. Indeed, the words are set with the utmost regard for intelligibility, and are often spoken rather than sung; but E.E. Cummings uses the sound of words structurally in his poems and the composer uses words as linking themes between movements: “balloon” in 1 and 2, “wee” in 1 and “we” at the end of 3, “you and I” in 2,3 and 4, “run” and “dance” in 1 and 4, “Spring” in all 4, etc. Thus the evocative and illustrative use of instruments (the percussion is all unpitched) and the abstract aspect of the voice’s words bear a reciprocal relationship to each other in an essentially ‘sounded’ structure.

(adapted from a programme note by Michael Graubart)

The first public performance was given on 15th June 1970 by Noelle Barker, soprano, Brian Woods, flute, and Michael Pound, percussion, at Morley College, London. The first broadcast performance was given later that same day in Canada (CBC Toronto Festival) by Mary Morrison, soprano, Robert Aitken, flute, and John Wyre, percussion. The first UK broadcast performance (BBC Radio Three) was given on 13 April 1971 by Jane Manning (soprano) and members of the Vesuvius Ensemble.

 

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Three Shakespeare Songs

 

The songs set for soprano and flute are:

"Tell me where is fancy bred”, from The Merchant of Venice,

"Take, O take those lips away”, from Measure for Measure and

"The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree” (the ‘Willow Song’) from Othello.

The work was composed in 1968 and first performed by Mary Thomas, soprano, and Judith Pearce, flute, in a concert broadcast by BBC Radio Three on 7 April 1977.

 

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Towards Equilibrium

 

Towards Equilibrium is another in a series of works which reflect my interest in the work and writings of the painter Paul Klee. My starting point was a section ('Building a Tower') in Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook: 'Stone I rests on the foundation stone. This upsets the balance towards left. To equalize, and causing a new disturbance, stone II is added to the right. Following this pattern, stone III pulls towards left, stone IV equalizes and pulls toward right, etc., until finally the keystone establishes a definitive equilibrium.' The drawing illustrating this construction is clearly related to his water-colour of 1922 'Unstable Equilibrium'.

Towards Equilibrium is not a musical translation of Klee's work but, rather, applies his ideas to a musical construction.

Starting from a position of uncertainty (noise), various events emerge, rarely related to each other except in as much as they exist for while together. They interrupt and overlap each other. Some are more controlled than others - at times the precise position of the notes relies on decisions made by the instrumentalists and occasionally the conductor is required to determine the order in which instruments enter or their dynamics. This creates a fluid and unstable structure - further emphasized by the spatial separation of high woodwind and brass from the other instruments, as well as each other. Gradually, common ground emerges through a series of individual crescendos that begin to come together, culminating in tutti chords which end the work.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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……un dolce lume……

 

This work, a response in part to experiencing the remarkable light, including the reflection of sunlight on marble, during a holiday in Florence, explores a range of 'translucent' string sounds. Clarity emerges after a long section during which superimposed 3-note phrases of unequal length are repeated over and over again, becoming chromatically distorted before reverting to their original forms. They gradually reduce to sustained 'A's (over a 5 octave span) alongside the rather ‘open’ and luminous sounding 5-note chord, A, C, D, E, G, from which the 3-note phrases were created.

The first performance was given by the Musicians of All Saints, conducted by Andrew Sherwood, on 12th February 2005 in Cliffe Hall, Lewes.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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Veni, sancte Spiritus

 

This setting of the Latin hymn is scored for mixed chorus and strings, excluding double basses. Written in 1975 for amateur singers, the work calls for a variety of vocal techniques.

The composer takes as his starting point musical evocations of the fire reported as hovering over the heads of the disciples at Pentecost, and the idea of the Spirit as fire. This idea dominates the string writing, whilst the choir utters the words of the prayer in various appropriately dramatic ways. On one level, the work systematically explores the variety of ways of making sound - fast/slow, free/rhythmic, for example, and all based on the plainsong melody sung by the men after the fiery climax. The composer’s ingenuity in making the performance techniques he requires accessible to relatively inexperienced performers is remarkable, and makes the work more rewarding for singers and players alike. On the imaginative level, we should be drawn into an experience which gradually evolves from the flickering string sounds at the beginning, and from the whispered choral prayer over it.

The work opens with a passage for the strings, tremolo, on the bridge, starting very quietly and building, evoking the blowing wind. Over this the voices whisper the words ‘veni, sancte Spiritus’. The plainsong on which the work is based is heard at the words ‘Veni, pater pauperum’. The choral writing builds in intensity to ‘reple cordis intimate’ and this leads on to an impassioned cry for cleansing and deliverance (‘Lava quod est sordidum…’). The sense of release is expressed in a passage of harmonic clarity (‘Da tuis fidelibus...’) and the work closes with an expression of ecstasy at the anticipation of everlasting joy.

“Veni, sancte Spritus” was commissioned by the Merton Festival with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain for performance at the 1975 Merton Festival.

(Adapted from a programme note by Andrew Charity)

 

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Windows I

 

The musical material is quite simple: a slowly changing chord, that after a sustained start begins to pulsate between the instruments, over which isolated events are heard. The effect may be compared, perhaps, with looking out of a window at a landscape which, although static, gradually takes on a different character as the light changes during the day and which is occasionally briefly disturbed, for example by the passage of birds and animals. The work is scored for piano, vibraphone, flute, clarinet, violin, viola and cello.

The first performance was given on 20 October 2001 by the Tacet Ensemble, in Brighton.

© Patrick Harrex

 

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