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Nigel Osborne: Choralis 1-2-3

  • for soprano, 2 mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone and bass
  • Composer: Nigel Osborne
  • Table of contents:
    Choralis 1 (9')
    Choralis 2 (10')
    Choralis 3 (4')

Work introduction

The Choralis series of works are the confession of a structuralist that is to say one who believes in the existence of a musicality common to all mankind irrespective of time or place. For the structuralist, musical cultures may differ in the details of their choices of instruments, pitch and form, but the most important things remain the same: the impulse to create, the physiology of rhythm, psychology of time, patterns of tension and relaxation, and much else. It is a humane and dignified philosophy because it explains in a non-sentimental way how people may be different and yet the same.

To the list of deep structures of music we may add another layer: the social structures of music. Whenever two or more people make music, an interaction takes place which is social as well as musical. The social invades the musical and adds to its meaning and vitality. In many primitive societies, for example, the idea of heterophony is the corporate singing of a single melody where each performer is free to elaborate, delay or race ahead as he chooses. This freedom is accommodated and adjusted to by the whole, and projected forward as a strong/musical message.

In the European tradition this richness has at times been swamped by an abstract culture but in the most vital vocal ensemble music it remains. The English madrigal, for example, derives its fascination and charm as much from the finely balanced human interaction of equal voices as from the more abstract laws of polyphony it embraces.

Choralis 1 moves through transcription to transformation of a series of ethnic models of consort music of a strongly cohesive nature. They include the famous Balinese monkey dance, which forms the back bone of the work, a Taureg medicinal dance, a Turkish work-song, and many more.

Choralis 2 moves one stage further, through transformation to abstraction of models of social interactions, including the heterophony of the Amazon basin, the democratic polyphony of the pygmies, a Russian love-song as well as caccia and madrigal models.

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