The New Complexity? Phaw. Old Hat!

The third chunk of the 3rd movement is now complete. About 19 minutes. having returned to work which included a move of office across London and the kids returning to school it’s taken me seven weeks. I’m now up to 52 minutes so nearly at the half way mark.

I’m not sure when the term “New Complexity” was first applied to the works of Brian Ferneyhough, Michael Finnisy, James Dillon and Richard Barrett, but the Jami Symphony preceded them all and there are few pieces of even these composers which match the complexity of the Jami Symphony, except perhapsĀ  Ferneyhough’s La terre est un homme – which only lasts 13 minutes!

A moment in this third part illustrates this complexity and I thought I would break it down between the various sections of the orchestra to demonstrate not only the complexity but the difficulty I am having in trying to make it as clear as possible. I work up each section one at a time woodwind, brass, chorus, strings, keyboards and percussion. Within each section I have to make choices about which part should be prominent and then which section should be prominent. Inevitably much is lost to the background wash, which is disappointing but choices have to be made. This section reaches a brief climax at roughly the overall mezzoforte to forte level and will be a long way from the massive climax at the end.

I had attempted to describe the complexity but decided it was easier to show a snippet from the score and then a sound clip of each orchestral section and the whole orchestra. So here is a page from this extract. And here are the Sound files for the woodwind, brass, chorus, strings, keyboards and percussion and finally the whole shebang.

As you will hear an awful lot of the detail is lost and in this section I have concentrated on the chorus at the start but allowed the brass to come through at the climax. I’ve made sure the tam-tam is heard because it is so rarely used but the woodwind detail is completely subsumed as is the piano (which hardly gets a look in in this work!). The strings are omnipresent! Whether these are the right choices who’s to say?

I still think the overall sound wash is exciting and there are plenty of places where lots of filligree detail can be heard.

2 Responses to “The New Complexity? Phaw. Old Hat!”

  1. Such gorgeous music…thanks for posting the score and the individual sound files for this one! Although the texture is so dense, the fact that parts come to the fore and recede (such as the harp/piano swoops) make it quite enjoyable listening. What is mysterious to me is that despite the profusion of notes, the overall harmony always feels carefully balanced; the individual families reinforce each other rather than clash.
    Exciting to hear your progress on this monolithic work!

    • David Carter says:

      “Gorgeous…” yes absolutely. “…the overall harmony always feels carefully balanced”. Yes again. Aurally there is clear tonal harmonic progression, moving like the currents in an ocean between different chords within a tonal centre and between tonal centres. It needs someone a lot smarter than me to analyse Sorabji’s harmonic language but it’s there to be analysed. He may settle briefly on a tonal centre and there will be every note of that tonality being played several times at once across the orchestra but the orchestration and melodic writing emphasises the part of that tonal centre Sorabji wants to be prominent. I feel it is part of my job to find those prominent harmonic movements and ensure they are as clear as possible.

      Thanks for your encouraging words Chappell. Hang on in there.

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