The Virtual Jami Blog Progress of creating a virtual performance of Sorabji's Jami Symphony

13/05/2020

Working notes

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 11:00 am

Whilst I’m working on the next chunk, I thought I would document my current working process. I have three versions of the score; a PDF of the handwritten manuscript; a “clean” typeset version and a “performing” typeset version from which the virtual performance is generated. I work on chunks of around 10-15 minutes’ worth of music at a time very much dependent on finding natural gaps/pauses in the music. This next chunk is a long one at about 17 minutes. It contains a very lengthy, multi-divisi, choral and orchestral polyphonic singing section with the chorus in 12-16 parts and the strings in 20 parts. It concludes though with a fantastical virtuosic section for the orchestra with abundant rapid semiquavers, lots of untuned percussion and stentorian brass.

The first job is to add all the necessary bars into the performing score. As we’re talking hundreds of bars and the time signature changes frequently this is no easy task. And I can’t just cut and paste from the clean score into the performing score as the layout of each score is very different. The clean score, designed for a conductor, has upward of 60+ staves but the performing score has more than double that as I have to have separate staves for strings in 10 parts, strings in 20 parts, violins in 16 parts, chorus in up to 32 parts, staves for individual wind & brass as well as staves for tutti wind/brass sections and muted brass.  For instance, the clean score has a stave for trumpets 1&2 with the part occasionally dividing into two parts on the one stave and occasionally requiring mutes. In the performing score I have to have two virtual instruments for the two trumpets and a separate virtual instrument for muted trumpets and each virtual instrument needs its own stave.

Having created the correct number of bars I cut and paste each individual stave from the clean score into the performing score and with 60+ staves that’s a lengthy and tedious job but from then on I concentrate on the performing score. I go through every instrumental part separating any divisi passages (where there is more than one line of music on a stave an issue mainly for the chorus and strings) so that each line of music is on its own stave. I also check the range of individual parts (an issue mostly in the woodwind) moving bits too low for the flute, oboe or clarinet for instance into parts for alto flute, hecklephone or bass clarinet. I have to check ranges of tuned percussion as the way Sorabji expected octave displacement in Glockenspiel, celesta and xylophone doesn’t work the same in the virtual instruments which mostly have to be transposed down an octave to generate the correct pitch. I have to virtually rewrite the piano and harp parts to ensure they generate the right sounds from the virtual instruments and for the same reason rewrite the untuned percussion using special percussion staves designed to generate the correct articulations from the virtual instrument. Only then can I actually start on creating the performance.

10/05/2020

5th instalment of 1st movement

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 09:45 pm

Still in lockdown which is allowing me to be musically productive. As well as continuing with the Jami I have been working on the typesetting of Havegal Brian’s 3rd Symphony. That would be considered something of a symphonic beast if it wasn’t compared to the Jami and still acts as light relief compared to Sorabji.

I’ve now completed 54 minutes of the 1st movement and heres a couple of extracts. There’s quite a bit of solo violin in this chunk some of which isn’t explicitly marked solo some of which is. It made me think that there is no explicit solo passage for cello or viola in the whole symphony. The organ appears for two bars in this video and gardly appears at all in this movement whilst it appears quite a lot in the third.

The video inlcudes a description of the music.

05/04/2020

4th Instalment of 1st movement

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 03:23 pm

 So here we all are in coronavirus lockdown. I’m lucky as I have a garden, the weather is good and I have Sorabji to while away the many hours. This has enabled me to finish the next chunk of about 14 minutes which takes me to 44 minutes and nearly the half way mark. I’ve chosen three extracts which are all described in the video. It’s probably just my fancy but there’s a premonitional nod to Michael Nyman and a look back (by couple of decades) to Richard Strauss and the stormy bits of the Alpine Symphony and a passage where I’ve employed metric modulation to determine the tempo, a technique developed by my illustrious namesake Elliott Carter. I could complain that Sorabji didn’t bother with minor details like tempo and dynamic markings but then that wouldn’t allow me to exercise my creativity. Enjoy.

03/03/2020

30 minutes into the 1st movement

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 04:53 pm

I’ve now completed the 2nd chunk of the 1st movement which takes me to 30 minutes in and I can offer you two contrasting excerpts.

The first half of this video opens onto a brief passage (MS pages 39-44) for 10 part strings alone which leads to one of those magical, whole orchestra, bi-tonal chords (quiet on this occasion) where the lower orchestra is ‘C’ major (+ harp 2 ascending gliss) and the upper orchestra is ‘C#’ Major (+ harp 1 descending gliss). This is followed by the most extended acapella choir passage in the whole symphony at about two minutes. An extended passage of beautiful 8-part counterpoint is followed by 16-voice, 4-part block harmony counterpoint which resolves onto an ‘E’ minor to ‘C#’ minor cadence. Unison trombones & tubas lead to some deep and ominous rumblings in the contrabassoon and double basses.

The second half opens on an unusual passage scored just for wind and brass (MS pages 53-66). Brass soon drop out replaced by strings as the wind play an extraordinarily virtuosic passage which looks (and sounds?) a bit like the virtuoso wind writing at the beginning of the Rite of Spring. Was Sorabji ‘cocking a snook’ at Stravinsky who he vehemently derided? Probably just my fancy. This is soon followed by an extended passage where the strings are divided to their maximum 28 parts, 16 violins and 4 each viola, cello & Doublebass. An extraordinary mosaic of every playing technique known to Sorabji; rapid runs; tremolos; glissandos; pizzicato; harmonics; trills; rapid arpeggios; spiccato and melody. Such passages are incredibly difficult to render and balance. I have always emphasised the melodic and there is melodic contribution from wind and brass. At the close of this passage chorus and wind rejoin and the whole orchestra quite rapidly moves to a huge climax on an ‘F#’ minor chord through which flutes, oboes and 2nd violins (with some necessary help from me) wail a crying lament which soon collapses in on itself.

17/02/2020

Two Climaxes

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 08:35 pm

I’ve had a fair amount of spare time to spend on the ‘Jami’ recently and have completed the first large chunk of the 1st movement which takes us to around 16 minutes. This video consists of two excerpts, the first glorious polyphony moment and the first major climax.

MS pages 15-20

Starting at about 7 minutes into the symphony is the first emotional climax when the whole orchestra and chorus sing glorious, tonal, polyphony. It opens with a descending trombone line and soon leads, via high violin harmonics to a crescendo of descending triads in the lower strings with a rising gong, then rising crotchets in upper strings and wind, a trumpet fanfare, and a bass led cadence into ‘F’ major led tonality.

MS pages 29-36

The second half of the video. starting at around 13’20” into the symphony is the first major climax, and it’s a doozy! It is preceded by quiet descending and ascending parallel tonal chords in the strings before kicking off a massively complex section for the whole orchestra including percussion. Too complex to describe in detail there are more notes in these 7 pages than in 7 Haydn symphonies. Towards the end there are huge descending parallel chords, a regular feature of the symphony. The massive final chord is rooted on ‘F’ and is largely ‘F’ minor with most of the other scale notes added.

04/02/2020

1st movement – opening 5 minutes

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 02:38 pm

So here is the wonderful opening of the 1st movement up to the first reprise of the main theme, just over 5 minutes. Interesting things compared to the third movement? Much less use of the organ; no Tam-Tam or tenor drum at all. But this opening contains many ideas clearly carried forward.

26/01/2020

Top left gentlemen.

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 11:59 am

I had thought I would take a break from Jami after the 3rd Movement. I have lots of other smaller projects gathering dust on the shelves. But, relative to the small but concentrated Sorabjiverse, there has been a very positive reaction to the completed 3rd movement and I am much encouraged and buoyed up so couldn’t resist getting straight on with the 1st Movement.

Whilst most people were recently listening to the 3rd, I listened to the 1st for possibly the first time for many years, maybe even a decade. I did the 2nd movement first in 2012 because it was short and I was learning my craft. At that point I realised my skills and my hardware may not be up to the task of the whole symphony. The 1st movement was very much my favourite and I didn’t want to tackle that until I knew me and my hardware could cope. My thinking was, if I could do the 3rd movement, the longest and most difficult, then the 1st and 4th would fall into place.

After 18 months I realised me and my hardware were not up to the task, so I stopped. 5.5 years later I could afford to build a beast of a computer and the software had improved immeasurably. I had also learnt much from listening to performances of Sorabji’s mightiest works from both Jonathan Powell and Kevin Bowyer and developed ideas about interpretation. The completed 3rd movement, I think, justifies continuing with the project and so I have got straight back on the wagon and plowed into the 1st Movement. I shall update as things progress.

21/01/2020

3rd Movement Complete

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 02:42 pm

Here it is, the complete 3rd movement

Although I completed the performance in November 2019, in an attempt to encourage greater engagement, I decided to make a commentary which runs for the whole 2+ hours. This turned out to be more time consuming than I had envisaged.

The commentary consists of my factual/prosaic description of the music as it progresses intermingled with text about, and quotes from, Sorabji as well as a technical description of how the performance was created. Permission was obtained from professor Roberge to use material from Opus Sorabjianum and from Alistair Hinton to use text from Mi Contra Fa and Around Music.

I have always envisaged presenting the complete performance of the symphony alongside a film of some kind. Perhaps a collage of text/film/pictures associated with Sorabji and this symphony.

Just using text is not ideal, but a start, and I quickly realised I needed to be far better organised about what text and how placed and this aspect will need re-visiting when the whole symphony has been done.

One moment of serendipity has encouraged me though. The placing of Sorabji’s description of the music in Szymanosvki’s 3rd Symphony at one of the most ravishing moments in the Jami Symphony is goosebumpingly uncanny. 1:17:04 in the video.

I would be really interested in any comments about any aspect of this performance, good or constructive. What wonderful music. On to the 1st Movement next.

15/10/2019

The opening of the 3rd movement

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 09:48 pm

I have stitched together 5 moments from the opening 21 minutes one fading out and in to the next.

The opening is loud and complex with every section setting out its stall. It foreshadows, by some 2 hours, the end although that is very, very loud and very, very complex. This opening statement ends with a strings full stop followed by a brief acapella choir section.

We fade back in to the culmination of a lengthy melody in the violas and then violins with full orchestra rising to a solid harmonic climax on G major with a typical descending, close harmony, parallel major triad movement in the bass instruments. This leads to a sudden halt followed by a not uncommon quite pulsing rhythm in the strings over which the 1st violins play yet another variation of the main theme of the whole symphony.

The next excerpt starts with a beautiful gesture from the Sopranos and Altos echoing each other in contrary motion (who’d have thought!) and is followed by a long melody in the tenors which also peaks on a lush major chord, this time E major (with additives) and an extra lush violin glissando.

More singing in the next excerpt but this time in 32 parts, a huge joyful section for the chorus. After a climax the 32-part chorus sing acapella quietly with a hint of main symphony melody in the sopranos.

The final part of this selection leads to a big climax but is preceded by a most unusual section for just woodwind, brass and percussion. The brass marking the beat whilst the woodwind scurry around like a swarm of insects, the chorus and strings can’t help but finish it off though.

It’s interesting to note that neither the organ nor the tam-tam play in this opening section, neither joining the foray until around 25 minutes in.

07/09/2019

MS Page 432

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 10:03 pm

Chronologically, this is the 2nd of 8 excerpts. The whole 3rd movement is likely to come in at over 2 hours and this excerpt is 0hr 21m to 0hr 31m.

Its notable for several significant trumpet solos including the quotation from a symphony by Chausson. There are two lengthy sections for full chorus, orchestra and organ. After the second, at the end of this except, is one of my favourite moments when unison cellos and basses lead into a long, quiet, sustained B major chord spread across multi divisi strings which is at first disturbed by movement in the lower strings but then settles back and over which 4 sopranos distantly intone a variant of the main motive of the whole symphony. Stunning.

That leaves the final chunk of the 3rd movement to do which is the 1st 20 minutes. That’ll take a while what with the start of the new music season and several band contests and orchestral gigs coming up but I am hopeful I could have the whole of the 3rd movement finished by Christmas.

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