2009

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Viola, electric guitar, cello, double bass
Duration c. 13'
First performance, Gavin Bryars Ensemble, York University February 11 2009



SATB, viola, electric guitar, cello, double bass
Duration c. 6'
First performance "The 24", directed by John Potter, Gavin Bryars Ensemble
York University, February 11 2009

Note : Text of Lauda 38 "Ben è crudele"

Text of Lauda 38 "Ben è crudele"

Ben è crudele e spietoso

ki non si move a gran dolore

de la pena del salvatore

che di noi fo si amoroso.

 

Amoroso veramente

fo di noi cum gram pietança,

poi ke d'alt'onnipotente

discese ad nostra semblança.

Or non fo grande disiança

per noi prender humanitate

et darsi in altrui podestade

quei k'e sovr'ogne poderoso?

 

Ben è crudele e spietoso

ki non si move a gran dolore

de la pena del Salvatore

che di noi fo si amoroso.

 

Doloroso flagellando

incoronâro di spina,

vis' e corpo sanguinando

di voi fêr gran disciplina;

cum gram tempesta, cum gram ruina

vi fecer la croce portare,

et menarv'ad iustitiare

ad guisa de ladron otioso.

 

Ben è crudele e spietoso

ki non si move a gran dolore

de la pena del Salvatore

che di noi fo si amoroso.

 

 

 

Cruel and pitiless is he

who is not moved to great sorrow

by the suffering of the Saviour

who loved us so greatly.

 

Truly, he loved us so much,

with such great pity,

that he came down from his high throne of power

to take on human form.

Now was that not a great desire,

that he took on humanity for our sake,

that he who had power over all

gave himself into the power of others?

 

Cruel and pitiless is he

who is not moved to great sorrow

by the suffering of the Saviour

who loved us so greatly.

 

They whipped the man of sorrows,

they crowned him with thorns;

his body gushing with blood

took hard punishment for your sake.

With great torment, with great damage

they made him carry his cross

and let him to led him to judgment

like a lazy beggar.

 

Cruel and pitiless is he

who is not moved to great sorrow

by the suffering of the Saviour

who loved us so greatly.



Peal of 13 bells - 3 pieces
Duration c. 50'
First performance Leeds Parish Church, April 25 2009

Note : Leeds Fuse

Leeds Fuse

Like most English people I grew up with the sound of church bells. The parish church in my home town of Goole would always ring from 10 to 10.30 on Sunday mornings to alert people to be in church by 10.30 (although I went to the Congregational Church, the alarm function still operated). The village where I now live in Leicestershire has an active bell-ringing team though at 8 bells they are much smaller in scale than those at Leeds Parish Church. The various systems of change ringing became attractive to several experimental musicians in the early 1970's - like Christopher Hobbs, Alex Hill, John White - providing, as they do a read source of systemic change and repetition, one of the ingredients of music of that time (Aran knitting patterns were another source...). John Cage, of course, wrote some pieces for bells though these are with carillon, a much simpler technique to execute (and Jon Hassell had some carillon pieces in the Punkt Festival in Norway last year.

But the physical reality of ringing with ropes is another thing and there is an immense repertoire of fine and mathematically complex sets of changes for this medium. It became clear that for me to write another in this tradition would be difficult to differentiate from others, except to specialists, and so I discussed other approaches with the Leeds team - with Steve Ollerton and Jeff Ladd. They pointed me to other approaches: some Italian church traditions, and the very interesting work done by sound artist Bill Fontana in 2005. This encouraged me to use techniques which change ringing seeks to avoid: sounding more than one bell at once, and writing harmonically. This is a real challenge to the ringers as synchronisation is difficult - but I relish the effect that comes from an honest attempt and only partial success! Spending a Sunday morning with the ringers was an inspiration and I dedicate the pieces to them.

 

 



Text: St Brendan
Choir (SATB), violin, organ
Duration c. 8'
First performance: Oakham School Choir, conductor Peter Davis, Martin Cropper, violin, Ivan Linford, organ.
Oakham School Chapel, May 24 2009

Note : Saint Brendan arrives at the Promised Land of the Saints

Saint Brendan arrives at the Promised Land of the Saints

Hear us God, our saviour, our hope throughout all the boundaries of the earth and in the distant sea.

Happy are they that live in your house. They shall praise you from generation to generation.

There before you lies the land which you have sought for a long time. You could not find it immediately because God wanted to show you his varied secrets in the great ocean.

Return, then, to the land of your birth, bringing with you some of the fruit of this land and as many of the precious stones as your boat can carry. The final day of your pilgrimage draws near so that you may sleep with your fathers.

After the passage of many times this land will become known to your successors, when persecution of the Christians shall have come. The river that you see divides the island. Just as this land appears to you ripe with fruit, so shall it remain always without and shadow of night. For its light is Christ.

Hear us God, our saviour, our hope throughout all the boundaries of the earth and in the distant sea.



Solo double bass and piano
Dedicated to my son Yuri
Duration c. 3'
Commissioned for publication by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM)



Text: George Bruce
Tenor  and piano
Duration c. 12'
First performance: James Gilchrist, tenor, Julius Drake, piano,
Leeds Lieder+, The Venue, Leeds College of Music, October 3 2009

Note : Text of Songs from Northern Seas (text: George Bruce)

Text of Songs from Northern Seas (text: George Bruce)

1. The Fisherman

As he comes from one of those small houses

Set within the curve of the low cliff

For a moment he pauses

Foot on step at the low lintel

Before fronting wind and sun.

He carries out from within something of the dark

Concealed by heavy curtain,

Or held within the ship under hatches.

 

Yet with what assurance

The compact body moves,

Head pressed to wind,

His being at an angle

As to anticipate the lurch of earth.

 

Who is he to contain night

And still walk stubborn

Holding the ground with light feet

And with a careless gait?

Perhaps a cataract of light floods,

Perhaps the apostolic flame.

Whatever it might be

The road takes him from us.

Now the pier is his, now the tide.

  

2. A Departure

The short man waves his hand,

Half turns, and then makes off.

He is going to the country

Taking the road with the field of clover

On one side, the beach in the other,

The beach jarred by white stones,

The clover globed waiting for soft winds.

At the top of the rise within earshot

Of both sea and birds for a moment

He stops. (Stop now for ever there

To witness sea sound, bird note,

Sea town's cries.) But he

As if hurt and shamed,

Moves, head bent, clothes loose upon him.

We would offer blood, cash down,

For a last knowing gesture,

But the hill has him - or the sea.

 

3. The Helmsman

Write out the wind of his hometown

And reckon its dance, not as the impact

On a wall, but on its history.

 

This wind that killed in the desert

That slit the ice-cap,

That blasted first life from soil,

That chanted about the Inn at night,

Blew winter at the Babe;

 

Blows to a flare the light in any

Hero helmsman's brain till his head

Above its circles - hands on wheel -

Is circled by a cloudless constellation.

His eyes are stars, his arms embrace

An unhinged world. Astride the swelling wind

In the empty dawn, in the horizon light

He becomes stature.

 

4. The Seaman, an Epilogue

For Andrew Stewart

 

What vision his, Northward he stares

On polar suns that burst and flood

On black and blood-red water

Whose movement breaking the white light

Prismatically, spreads North and North

Salt gold and green to the cold berg's foot.

 

What vision his when South he looks

From sea to land, across those waterways -

Home, seen now in the perspective of space,

Men minute and shadow-like, active at their doors,

Pulling their doll-like crafts ashore.

He sees their purposes, yet hears nothing,

No pebbles' jar, no thump of boat, no shout

As rapid waters easily o'erwhelm

And run about the low decks and thrust

Aside the boats, returning them to the original sea.

 

Yet he trusting these shadows,

More real than rock, hearts perdurable

Without doubt or fear - homeward steers.



Texts: 2 Petrarch, Bronzino, Battiferri
Six voices a capella (STTTBarB)
Commissioned by Villa I Tatti: the Harvard University Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence

In memory of Professor Craig Smyth
Duration c. 14'
First Performance: Singer Pur; Villa I Tatti, Florence, October 16 2009

Note : Text of Four I Tatti Madrigals

Text of Four I Tatti Madrigals

I

Petrarca: Sonnet CCXIX

Cantai, or piango, e non men di dolcezza

del pianger prendo che del canto presi;

ch'a la cagion, non a l'effetto intesi

son i miei sensi vaghi pur d'altezza.

 

Indi a mansuetudine e durezza

et atti feri, et umili, e cortesi,

porto egualmente; né me gravan pesi,

né l'arme mie punta di sdegni spezza.

 

Tengan dunque vèr' me l'usato stile

Amor, madonna, il mondo, e mia fortuna;

ch'i' non penso esser mai se non felice.

 

Viva o mora, o languisca, un più gentile

stato del mio non è sotto la Luna;

sì dolce è del mio amaro la radice.

 

Rime Sparse 229 trans. Robert Durling

I sang, now I weep, and I take no less sweetness from weeping

than I took from singing, for my senses, still in love with

heights, are intent on the cause, not its outward effects.

 

Thence I bring away equally mildness and harshness, cruel

gestures and humble and courteous;  nor do any weights weigh

me down, nor does any point of disdain shatter my armour.

 

Let them keep toward me their accustomed style, Love, my

lady, the world, and my fortune; I think I shall never be

anything but happy.

 

Whether I live or die or languish, there is no nobler state than

mine under the moon, so sweet is the root of the bitter!

 

 

II

 

Petrarca: Sonnet CCXXX

I' piansi, or canto; ché 'l celeste lume

quel vivo sole alli occhi mei non cela,

nel qual onesto Amor chiaro revela

sua dolce forza, e suo santo costume:

 

onde e' suol trar di lagrime tal fiume,

per accorciar del mio viver la tela,

che non pur ponte o guado, o remi o vela,

ma scampar non potiemmi ale né piume.

 

Sì profondo era, e di sì larga vena

il pianger mio, e sì lunge la riva,

ch'i' v'aggiungeva col penser la pena.

 

Non lauro o palma, ma tranquilla oliva

pietà mi manda. e 'l tempo rasserena,

e 'l pianto asciuga, e vuol ancor ch'i' viva.


Rime Sparse 230 trans. Robert Durling

I wept, now I sing; for that living sun does not hide from my

eyes her heavenly light, in which virtuous Love clearly reveals

his sweet power and his holy ways;

 

thus he is wont to draw from me such a river of tears to shorten

the thread of my life, that wings and feathers could not rescue

me. Let alone bridge or ford or oars or sail.

 

So deep and from so full a source was my weeping and so distant

the shore, that I could hardly reach it even in thought.

 

Pity sends me not laurel or a palm but the tranquil olive, and

clears the weather, and dries my tears, and wishes me still to

live.

 


 

III

 

Bronzino: In morte del medisimo (Pontormo)

L'Aura vostr'alma, or che 'l fier Borea ammorza

Alle campagne I più vaghi colori,

E 'l corso impetra ai vivi argenti, e fiori

Vedova, e attrista ogni terrena scorza;

 

Col suo dolce spirar, di nuova forza

Par, ch' aer muova, e nuova terra irrori,

Nuovo Sol n'apra, e piante, acque, erbe, e fiori

Ne renda, e ta', ch' a rallegrar ne sforza.

 

On'io qual fronda al più nemico verno

Dentro agghiacciato, e fuori atro, e negletto,

Orbo del caro mio buon padre, e duce,

 

Vigor riprendo, e 'l giel distruggo interno,

Degli onor suoi mi vesto, e 'l suo diletto

Seren m'innalza, e scuopre la mia luce.

 

 

On the death of the same [Pontormo]

The aura ([l'aura] of your soul - now that the strong

North wind which fades the flowers

and freezes the river to icy silver, and leaves the earth

bare and saddened as a widow, has departed -

 

seems with its gentle breath, to move the air

with new strength, and bedew the earth, to open up the sky

so that plants, water, grass, and flowers

rejoice with renewed energy.

 

While I, like foliage in bitter winter,

frozen inside and out, bleak and neglected,

deprived of my dear father and leader,

 

I am revived and melt the ice within me,

I dress myself in his mantle and his love

and I rise serene, and reveal my own Light.

 

 

IV

 

Laura Battiferri: In morte del medesimo (risposta)

Bronzino in ciel l'alma beata luce

Quant' altro vago, e luminoso aspetto

Atto a produr fra noi più degno effetto

Come fu già del mondo onore, e luce;

 

Talchè l'erto sentier, ch' a Dio conduce

Fuor di questo mortal breve ricetto,

Mostra sì piano al vostr' alto intelletto,

Ch' uopo non ha di miglior guida, o duce.

 

Et io, che 'n alto mar senza governo

Quando è più nudo I ciel de' suoi splendori,

Erro sempre alternando or pioggia, or orza,

 

Già fatta preda al gran Nettuno, e scherno,

Scorgo non lunge I suoi lucenti albori

Sì che la stanca nave si rinforza.

 

 

Reply:

Bronzino, your beautiful soul shines in heaven;

what other lovely, luminous Power

could create among us greater works, honor and brilliance

than the world has ever known;

 

the steep path that leads to God

beyond this brief, mortal sojourn

is revealed so clearly to you

that you have no need for a better Guide or Leader,

 

While I, as if on the high seas with no captain,

the sky dark with heavy clouds,

I veer this way and that, seaward or windward,

 

though I was prey of great, mocking Neptune,

I see not far away the dawning light

and my weary boat takes heart.



Tenor, viola, cello, electric guitar, double bass
Duration c. 5'
First performance: John Potter and Gavin Bryars Ensemble
Union Chapel Islington, October 19 2009



Percussion quintet
Dedicated to Les Percussions Claviers de Lyon
First performance: Les Percussions Claviers de Lyon
Salle Varèse, National Conservatoire of Music, Lyon November 13 2009