Solace for mixed choir & electronics (2015-2016)

“Solace” is a piece that was inspired by a section of John Adams’ (2008) biography in which he mentions making a concert of surround choir music based on Renaissance chants with some of his early students. This was the original inspiration for the piece, although I also wanted to write something with very contemporary harmony and I therefore started sketching a composition. The piece is for a pre-recorded choir, electronics and played on an eight channel ambisonics set-up just like “Suspended Mirrors”. The reason for using a pre-recorded choir were three-fold. Firstly spatializing a choir standing in front of a crowd would be rather difficult and quickly create spatial dissonance which is not what I want. Secondly, if I was to place the choir around the room, it would require a relatively bigger room than the one in which I knew it was going to be presented. Thirdly the scheduling and economic situation with the Kammerkoret Aurum would never have even given me the chance to have a live concert with them.

After finding several poems by Quebec’s Émile Nelligan (1879-1841), I started writing. The first movement is a nudge to the original inspiration by Adams. The piece starts almost like Renaissance chant before quickly becoming very polyphonic and line based, and using contemporary harmony, especially the concept of vagrant chords as defined by Schoenberg (2010). As I was writing the piece I had also planned that the electronics would first be subtle and become more and more present especially in the B section of the piece. Towards the end the harmony would become once again more traditional and resemble Renaissance chant.

The second movement was to be much more experimental and was separated into a second movement, and an addendum. The addendum was to be recorded separately and then used in the background of the second movement, time-stretched to make a harmonic blanket of sound which was tuned to the harmony of each section in the movement. The harmonies are once again derived from the spectrum of certain notes, and the harmony is very tight often arriving chords based on seconds. Originally the second movement was much longer, but I had cut it down to be more accommodating for the choir. The pauses in the notation of the choir also allow a certain leeway for improvisation with the electronics creating an interpretation.

The third movement was based more on the intervals within the lines than any specific type of harmony. Some of Schoenberg’s atonal techniques are also used on something that is in the far reaches of tonality.

Picture of the MaxMSP schematics

Written for the award-winning Kammerkoret Aurum

Recorded at several locations, each group separately during the Spring of 2016 in Trondheim, Norway. Recorded, edited, mixed and mastered by Mathieu Lacroix. The recorded is a binaural reduction of the piece which is originally for an octogonal ambisonics set-up. Listen to it with headphones!




Back to Compositions