Speakings – Jonathan Harvey

Artist(s): BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Ilan Volkov

Composer: Jonathan Harvey

Repertoire: Speakings

Catalogue No: AECD1090 [3760058360903]

Discs: 1CD Digipack

UK CD PPD: £8.99 (approx retail £13.99)

UK Release: 28th June 2010 (CD & Download)

The three works recorded on this disc centre round the voice, or at least the idea of a vocal presence. Though generally not audible to the listener, the voice permeates these three pieces at a profound level, without ever being used directly. Representing the very essence of humanity, words and song enrich Jonathan Harvey’s music in a variety of ways. Scena is constructed as a series of dramatic tableaux enacted by a violin in the role of diva. The mimesis and catharsis associated with the distancing effect of theatre are thus taken to a further metaphorical level: the character that represents humanity is in turn represented by an instrumental double. In Jubilus, the voices of plainsong and Buddhist ritual meet in a poetic fantasy which goes beyond simply evoking one particular religion. There is no voice present, but the solo viola conveys the ecstatic expression of the anchorite. Speakings, for orchestra and live electronics, is closely related to the voice by way of computer modelling and the application of formants (peaks in the sound spectrum of the voice) to the instrumental sound spectrum. This instrumental music is in fact generated from and manipulated by means of vocal sources. All three works are, at least in part, based on earlier pieces: the last part of Scena on Lotuses, Jubilus on Chant, and the second part of Speakings on Sprechgesang.

Speakings was premiered during the BBC Proms in 2008 by Ilan Volkov and the BBC SSO, aided and abetted by a team of computer designers and sound engineers. Those same forces gave the first Scottish performance in the City Halls, Glasgow, last year. Speakings received a French première at Festival Agora on 12th June at the Salle Olivier Messiaen, Maison de Radio France.

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