I’d like to share a few pieces of music that I feel either resonate with or otherwise influenced Angelystor.
Katharine Norman – Bells and Gargoyles (1996)
Bells and Gargoyles is an electroacoustic piece which processes a rather rough field recording made by Katharine Norman at St. Michael and All Angels Church, Hathersage (a location also used in the cult classic The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue). The piece begins and ends with unprocessed recordings, between which she uses various sonic transformations to suggest the blending of the imagination with the environment. You can listen to it in full at Katharine Norman’s website. In Angelystor, nearly all the non-instrumental and non-vocal sounds were also abstracted from the original field recording, although using a narrower palette of techniques.
Johnathan Harvey – Mortuos Plango Vivos Voco, Ritual Melodies for computer-manipulated sounds (1980)
Named after the inscription on the bell at Winchester Cathedral, Mortuos Plango… is a tape piece structured around eight partials of the tenor bell. Bells make particularly interesting sounds for analysis consisting of stable, but uneven partials, varying depending on the shape and composition of the bell itself. Harvey explores one partial for each movement in the piece, coupled with the processed voice of his son, a chorister. An excellent analysis of the piece by Patricia Lynn Dirks is available here. While working on both Angelystor and Three Spirits I became rather obsessed with spectral analysis and manipulation. While most of the non-instrumental material in Angelystor was derived from processing the field recording, the tonality of the instrumental material also came from a spectral analysis of a crow’s call on the field recording, rather freely assembling a selected partials in the call into a hexatonic scale, which turned out to be a truncation of one of Messiaen’s modes of limited transposition…
Olivier Messiaen – Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jésus (1944)
… and no one evokes the otherworldly awe and terror of angels like Messiaen – it’s a shame a church organ wasn’t on hand to work on Angelystor with! Since I already picked Les Anges for a previous post, here is another section of the same work – the doom-laden Jésus Accepte la Souffrance, which ultimately resolves into a glorious, golden sustained chord.
Andrzej Panufnik – Autumn Music (1962)
Panufnik’s beautiful, mournful Autumn Music may well be one of my most beloved pieces of music. Composed while his lover Winsome Ward was dying of cancer, it is concerned with the passing of time and mortality – most obviously in its reference to the season of decline. It abounds with musical symbolism, for example, at around 4 minutes there is a section with percussion in which a staccato passage grows and then decays, followed by a piano tolling like a church bell (marking the passing of time, or life?), while the strings slowly stir, gradually rising up like an ascending soul. Writing in Tempo (#96, Spring 1971), Panufnik wrote that he chose to omit the violins and brass from the orchestra to achieve “a transparency of sound”, and that the architecture of the piece is (as with many of his works) symmetrical – perhaps in this context the symmetry could be interpreted as a symbol of metempsychosis.
While I’m posting images of ‘the dots’, I’d like to point out that I have uploaded several of my own scores over here. I’m sure there will be one for Angelystor: I had originally intended to produce a ‘listening score’ to help people through the density of material, although at present this is still in the form of lots of densely annotated spectrograms! (If anyone reading this wants to collaborate on producing one, though, let me know – unfortunately I don’t have time to get too much into graphic design these days…)