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

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.

07/08/2019

MS Page 492

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 03:00 pm

So I’ve completed another retrospective chunk of 16 minutes plus and can offer you a most generous 11 minute plus portion. My thinking at the moment is not to post everything and not to reveal the whole movement at least until it’s finished and then maybe not then as I’m contemplating some sort of “World Premier” performance of the whole work, maybe on line via YouTube, maybe in a performance venue, maybe both.

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There’s a nice bookend to this extract which begins and ends with a bass oboe solo. At 23″ the strings all expand to 4 parts each, 20 overall for quite a stretch. Sorabji employs a variety of playing techniques in this section. At the start the 1st violins are playing very high rapid chromatic lines in block harmony (major 7th chords), the 2nd violins play glissando figures in block major/minor chords, the violas play melodically in block 7th chords, the cellos provide steady pizzicato in major/minor block chords, the basses have sustained notes in this case major and minor 2nds doubled at the octave. Each group will swap what they’re doing and there are also tremolo passages, artificial harmonics, scalic rushing, arpeggio figures and trills all constantly passed around. This is a fairly typical passage. Over the top of this string melee there are snatches of melody in the wind and chorus as well as accompanying figures. At 36′ there is another common gesture when a steady staccato semiquaver pointing starts in the clarinets then moves to the other wind then to the brass.

At 2’08” the strings reduce in texture to an ascending running scale from basses to violins punctuated by short tremolo jabs whilst the wind descends from on high with a rapid staccato tonguing passage. Most of the orchestra then joins building to a semi climax with stamping bass and timpani which dissolves suddenly into an entirely different mood and tempo at 3’09”.

Talking of tempi, this next passage is interesting as it has several changes, gearing up gradually from pulse = 50 BPM to pulse = 180 BPM. Now, you must remember, there are absolutely zero tempo indications anywhere in the score. Everything is at the discretion of the performer and in this case entirely made up by me. The initial 50 BPM section is another typical Mediterranean style passage, long languid melodies in middle strings and wind, steady rhythmic pulse in lower strings and percussion, skittering around in upper strings and wind. This gradually increases in texture until we move into 2nd gear which is a doubling of the speed at 3’57” and a 3/4 pulse marked out by the cymbals and tam-tam. There’s some heavy lower brass interjections and a lot more movement through the orchestra. This doesn’t last long before we move into 3rd gear at 4’08” and a tempo of pulse = 116 this time in a 4/4 feel marked by the gong repeating a leap of a 5th. Again the action increases with more activity in all sections. At 4’20” we arrive at 4th Gear with the pulse at 180 BPM with huge rapid running passages in wind and strings and plenty of energy in the brass and timps and noise from the choir. A pretty thrilling passage.

This passage peters out into calmer quieter fair at 5’20” where we revert to ideas similar to the passage at the beginning of this extract with the strings again divided in 20 parts. I’ll leave you to your own imagination for the rest of the extract but listen out for a nice heart beat thrubbing in the bass drum and lower strings at 7’04” accompanying melody in the chorus and gong. There’s a fuller “Glory Glory” section at 8’48” (without organ).

30/06/2019

MS Page 565 – Violins divisi a 16

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 01:56 pm

I have completed my first effort to retrofit the performance of the first 72 minutes of the 3rd movement made in 2013 onto the 2019 performance of the remainder of the movement. It’s been tricky making sure various settings, particularly volume settings match and the performances sound seemless. Much work was necessary for the keyboards, tuned and untuned percussion. It’s taken a couple of weeks and hopefully it’s worked OK.

This excerpt is the last 6 minutes leading up to the excerpt posted on 22 June 2019 commencing MS Page 591 so you play one after the other and judge for yourself whether the performances sound seemless.

The notable thing about this section is it contains the lenghty passage when the 1st and 2nd violins divide into eight parts each. This is the 3rd time I have tried to render this passage and is hopefully the best. However the texture around the violins is itself extremely dense so picking out detail is difficult.

25/06/2019

End of Movement 3

Filed under: Uncategorised — David Carter @ 10:26 am

The climax of the third movement.

I’ve said before and I’ll say again this must be one of the most climactic moments in all western orchestral music. It has been extremely challenging although my hardware and software have coped remarkably well. My musical faculties have been sorely stretched to cope with the very end. When you have 4 timpani, bass drum, side drum, field drum, 2 triangles, 2 cymbals and tam-tam (not to mention the castanets and tambourine trying desperately to join in) all rolling at treble forte, the organ at full blast every singer and instrumentalist singing/blowing with all their might, nigh on 500+ musicians busting their guts, you gotta expect a lot of noise. The problem has been to try and make not just noise and if you listen closely you should be able to pick out the voices and maybe the brass and certainly the squealing Eb clarinet as well as the bass instruments vomiting up some sort of C# major/minor arpeggio type thing. The final chord, which is preceded by a long pedal G, is rooted on a C#/G# fifth in the bass with the male chorus, lower wind and brass on a Bb minor chord, the female chorus and upper orchestra on an A minor chord and the upper woodwind wailing out a tremolo Bb to C.

The lead up to the final cataclysm is full of Sorabji’s usual extraordinary invention. There’s a lot of important moments for the tuned gongs and I’ve been imagining them as the voice of Apollo signalling the end is nigh.

Decent audio equipment will improve the listening experience. Turn up the volume and let the room shake.

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