A piece recently finished in draft, fairly modern as I return to my Lutyens-esque mode. The Soprano part is wordless.

It's iin keeping with my aim of 6 minutes. I doubt it'll ever be performed live but I'll be submitting the score to the BBC. The chance of them doing it is slightly less than me swimming the Pacific Ocean...but one never knows.

If you have 6 minutes to spare, can cope with modern works, please give it a listen - and comments of all hues are always greatly appreciated as it could do with some tarting up here and there. 

Thank you.

01 - Music for Soprano and Orchestra - 2022 VDRA.pdf


Cantata XI V2 180622 128.mp3

(Sorry about the low quality mp3. Still seems to be reasonable though. I'm less happy about what Soundcloud would do with it but if anyone would prefer that, please just say.


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  • Hi Dane,

    I listened to about half of it and looked at the score. I always find your music to be a challenge. I don't quite "get it." I wonder if you could explain a bit your compositional approach and what you are trying to achieve if that might help me come to a better understanding of it. Some observations from listening to your works over the years: 1) The music seems to be somewhere in the middle of the tonal vs. atonal worlds; 2) it is evocative of fireworks - splashes of color rising suddenly to a high energy, rapidly fading away, then followed by another splash of color; 3) if it has a melody, I can't detect it; 4) despite being very dramatic (lots of low lows and high highs) the works don't seem to have a sense of forward motion, that is, I can't perceive if it is developing towards some end or goal. These are just impressions I have, but I seem to have them over and over again with each piece.

    Thanks for posting!


    • Many thanks for giving it a try, Gavin. I sometimes find it a challenge to write. Basically the process with this kind of music (for me) is something inspires something in my mind; I ponder on how I'm going to write it. With familiar harmonies that isn't too difficult until moving into something unfamiliar. So I sketch out what I can...and take it from there. It's a lot about flow - moving from onr phrase to the next. If things don't work out as I hoped I look for the nearest checkpoint and think of alternatives.

      As for what I want to achieve...I suppose it's a question many creative people are asked. Why does anyone do anything creative other than self-expression (of some kind, even working to a formula - or for a tradesperson - for money. What I hope to achieve is that the finished work, as far as possible, is what it was meant to be in my mind - not always as those original ideas - they get modified as we go along - but it does symbolically represent the mood, the events, the feeling of things.

      This piece dosen't quite deliver but it seemed near enough while trying to limit its length. I'm honestly self-critical. Of these pieces for voice and orchestra (this is #11) only 3 have been what I'd call adequate.. As for melody, I tend to rely on motifs and exceptionally in this one, the main motif is developed throughout. 

      So thanks for the commentary - and the partial listen!

  •  I found the sound world of this rather attractive (nice rendering) although the idiom is in general alien and as I'm not quite sure what you are trying to achieve don't feel qualified to comment. Sounds like the sort of thing the BBC might go for and the length should be about right. If only I could write something about a hundred years more up date and a quarter the length. But I don't actually want to.

    • Hello David.

      Thank you for listening and your comments - gratefully received. One can only hope with the BBC! 

      I'd call it a symbolist piece, Impressionist? I gave up putting descriptive titles to them in case it invoked an expectation bias. Acquaintances have called my stuff "postmodern" though I'm never sure if that isn't an insult!...Could be because some works are actually tonal.believe it or not. My most recent one was a guitar piece.

      I started the 6 minutes thing a while ago when an ex-school music teacher conducted a semi-professional orchestra in Croydon (Surrey, England until it became a London suburb). He offered to play something "but if I could keep it down 5 or 6 minutes." I play in a local orchestra - nothing fantastic but if things are simple they've been known to give me 6 minutes for a concert filler. Sadly it hasn't fully reformed after covid - but they couldn't tackle something like this work anyway.

      Yes, you must write as you want to. That's what makes it a wonderful hobby. Something we can throw ourselves into. My problem with long works is getting enough uninterrupted time to listen through (possibly twice + looking at the score if it's there) and commenting. But I try!

      Thanks again..

      • I've had another listen and will come back again from time to time. I like the way the soprano line is crafted -- I just still have some problems following the instrumental writing in places. I don't know if postmodern really means anything other than trying to bring back a few elements from tradition after the more extreme phase of experimentation just for the sake of it which does seem to have largely passed.

        On performance, it's always tempting if you are involved in a local orchestra to try and write something which is within the capabilities of such a band. A composer I greatly admire in his more serious vein, Malcolm Arnold wrote symphonies which are actually playable by such orchestras which is just as well as professionals almost never programme them-- though on record the works have fared rather better. I am not going to face this dilemma except in choral music (well --we'll see what is made of a couple of chamber works which supposedly will finally be performed next year after Covid delay) and made sure my Mass in Eb at least, is within the reach of the sort of hack choir I myself sing in if a conductor is interested in something local.

  •  Frenchman Ben Lecomte attempted to swim the Pacific in 2018 after traversing the Atlantic in 1998. Unfortunately Lecomte was forced to quit after 1,753 miles due to mechanical problems with the boat that was supporting him. But ".. I knew I had it in me to keep going"  he said.  So I fully expect that the BBC will eventually be conquered as well!

    In the meantime Dane I'm enjoying this work which while certainly modern is more accessible than some of your other work here. I feel that the soprano is more at home with her friends here than she has been in the past, a good blend in other words. I like Gavin's description of fireworks.  Fireworks are incredibly popular so this music should be also!

    Elisabeth Lutyens has some wonderful music and is an excellent inspiration.  From Wikipedia ( the source of all knowlege ):

    'Lutyens is remembered for her intolerance of her better-known contemporaries among English composers including Vaughan Williams, Holst, Ireland, and Bax.[8] She dismissed them as "the cowpat school" in a lecture she gave at the Dartington International Summer School in the 1950s, disparaging their "folky‐wolky melodies on the cor anglais"  '.

    Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Ralph Vaughan Williams, ( (listen); 12 October 1872 – 26 August 1958) was an English composer. His works include operas, ballets, chamber music, sec…
    • Measure 107-108 has some seriously low notes for clarinet, am I missing something?  Oh and you have a very mellow resolving ending to this too, nice.


      • I have some sympathy with Luytens dismissal of the "cowpat school" although Vaughan Williams at his best, such as in the Pastoral Symphony rises well above this. And I just listened to a couple of pieces of hers including the 6th quartet which was genuinely gripping in the reflective middle section. And certainly I have no problem with some serial techniques within a generally tonal framework (such as in Shostakovich's 12th quartet). But whether I'll ever be really able to get to grips with the Aubrun/Luytens school, to put it crudely, I'm not sure. Perhaps that's simply my loss.

        The Bb clarinet can play down to C3 with VSL which generally has a fairly ambitious range compared to some other vendors -- the standard appears to be D3. I'm also puzzled by the notes in bars 107-8 but no doubt there is a good explanation.


        • As I said to Ingo, Lutyens could be outspoken - never as rude and damning as the hopeless Boulez though. She was at the front of the British avant garde and probably had to defend her poisition. Luckily, Glock was in charge at the BBC when if you weren't an avant garde composer you didn't stand a chance. Many great composers lost out because of that. George Lloyd comes to mind. And you never heard a Bax symphony.

          Vaughan Williams could hardly be avoided. He had a big fan base. I'm in two minds about him. Just a personal reaction, his Sea Symphony is about the most boring thing I've ever heard aside from a few bits from Parry. I quite like VW's Pastorale and his 6th and 7th are where it all happens. Ok, the 8th is really light music and fun in a way. The one with which I really can't cope is his 4th. Horrid !

          Some of Lutyens's music is difficult but I get along with most of what's there. Quincunx is most listenable to me, cohesive, extended. Another chamber work that hooked me is her oboe quartet. Incidentally, that work appears on a CD of Francis Routh's work (oboist) and it made me realise how woefully inadequate available oboe samples are: no harmonics, no single-note trills.

          Oh, and by the way I should hide my head in shame. Those weird clarinet notes are keyswitches that I forgot to delete. I shall do so now. I set my keyswitches as close as I dare to the bottom of the instrument's compass! . 


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