Jay Schwartz: Music for Voices and Orchestra

Jay Schwartz Music for Voices and Orchestra
Music for Voices and Orchestra

Jay Schwartz: Music for Voices and Orchestra

Year of composition:
2008
Scored for:
for voices and orchestra
Composer:
Jay Schwartz
Text author:
Ruskin Watts
Choir:
8 S, 8 A, 8 T, 8 B
Instrumentation:
4 4 4 4 - 6 4 4 2 - perc(4), str(16 14 12 10 8)
Instrumentation details:
1st flute (+picc)
2nd flute (+picc)
3rd flute
4th flute
1st oboe
2nd oboe
3rd oboe
4th oboe
1st clarinet in Bb
2nd clarinet in Bb
3rd clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb))
4th clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb))
1st bassoon
2nd bassoon
1st contrabassoon
2nd contrabassoon
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
3rd horn in F
4th horn in F
5th horn in F
6th horn in F
1st trumpet in Bb
2nd trumpet in Bb
3rd trumpet in Bb
4th trumpet in Bb
1st trombone
2nd trombone
bass trombone
contrabass trombone
1st bass tuba
2nd bass tuba
1st percussion
2nd percussion
3rd percussion
4th percussion
violin I (1st desk)
violin I (2nd desk)
violin I (3rd desk)
violin I (4th desk)
violin I (5th desk)
violin I (6th desk)
violin I (7th desk)
violin I (8th desk)
violin II (1st desk)
violin II (2nd desk)
violin II (3rd desk)
violin II (4th desk)
violin II (5th desk)
violin II (6th desk)
violin II (7th desk)
viola (1st desk)
viola (2nd desk)
viola (3rd desk)
viola (4th desk)
viola (5th desk)
viola (6th desk)
violoncello (1st desk)
violoncello (2nd desk)
violoncello (3rd desk)
violoncello (4th desk)
violoncello (5th desk)
contrabass (1st desk)
contrabass (2nd desk)
contrabass (3rd desk)
contrabass (4th desk)
Commission:
Kompositionsauftrag des Südwestrundfunks
Duration:
25’
More Less

Audiosamples

Music for Voices and Orchestra
00:00

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

Music for Voices and Orchestra is a treatment of musical material in the form of a chiasm, a musical setting of intersecting lines, as in a cross. This musical structure is analogous to the structure of the poem Elegy Howlers by the contemporary English poet Ruskin Watts.  In the poem, the phonetics and semantics of the German and the Hebrew languages interrelate and intersect in the same chiasmatic form in seven pairs of words. The language families in this way form a geographic crossing of the ways, short-circuiting crossed wires, of occident and orient.

(ELEGY)                                                                                        SHOFAR ...
                HERRSCHER                                            SHAVAH
                                    HEILIG                SHOFÊT
                                                 REGEL
                                    cHOLIY                SCHOeFFE
                cHOSHECh                                               SCHUFT-DER
(HOWLERS)                                                                                   SCHUFTET ...

Ruskin Watts has declared: "The elegy is no poem, it is chiselled stone, empty gravestone, toom tomb, a silent tombeau, mural without melos, footprints on clay tablets, meaningless commandment of the Law, misvouched, a post-Auschwitz poster. It has no real author and no authentic space in which it may be read. The elegy addresses the no-mans-land between cultures, amidst all the difference and the differends, dear friends and their differences." 

The entire structure of the musical composition is based on this cross in the text.  The music is architectural rather than anecdotal, it is an objective construction rather than a descriptive setting of the text. Two diametrically opposed lines approach each other gradually and persistently in an extended musical development. 

The Hebrew words begin in inaudible cHOSHECH, becoming rumbling depths, and rise in a slow and vast, increasingly decorated glissando, to end with SHOFAR sliding up into inaudible heights. The German words, on the other hand, simultaneously begin in the brightest white noise, with HERRSCHER, and slowly sink in contrapuntal glissandi, to end with the utter profundis of SCHUF(TET). The lines cross in the central unison REGEL, a word phonetically common to both German and Hebrew, meaning 'rule' in German and 'foot' in Hebrew.  (The fact that these words have common phonetics but dissonant meanings is the basis of Watts’ language philosphy and calls up an endless chain of historical and cultural associations.) All voices and tutti orchestra resonate on this unison on the eight foot D, all forces held focussed, on the mean point of their combined registers, a cathartic event triggering a chain of funnels (each a micro form of the first half of the piece) in which major thirds are repeatedly narrowed to microintervals and to unisons, a haunting passage through a complex of consonant chords, which approach, appear, and pass. The entangled lines separate gradually and disappear into diametrically opposite ranges in a mirrored image of the first half of the piece. 

The stringent framework of the composition allows for the long arch of a comprehensible form while at the same time permitting a complex network of contrapuntal voices. The extreme ranges of the instrumentation, from piercingly high to sub-bass depths, analogous to the far wings of the X, as well as the tight compilation of microtonal intervals express the excessive and primal in music. 

Jay Schwartz

Special prints

Music for Voices and Orchestra

Jay Schwartz: Music for Voices and Orchestra

study score
for voices and orchestra , 25’
Instr.: 4 4 4 4 - 6 4 4 2 - perc(4), str(16 14 12 10 8)

World première

Location:
Stuttgart
Date:
29.11.2008
Orchestra:
SWR RSO Stuttgart
Conductor:
Matthias Pintscher

Other works

Sign up for our newsletter!

You will regularly receive information about new scores with free downloads, current prize games and news about our composers.