• Daniel Davis

Parallel Compositions

It is been a while since last time I worked on Tell me again the music of that Tale. Instead, I have been working in a short song called Remembering the future… inspired by Luciano Berio’s book Remembering the future. The writer, Tane Stevens, after a discussion about music and literature, decided to write a small poem inspired in Berio’s title.

Composers very often work in parallel compositions, and it does not necessarily means that both will be related, however, it is easy, when making two pieces at the same time, they have being related; and in a voice work this might be an issue, specially when working with text.

Each text or poem has an universe and one of the purposes of the composer when setting text is, at least try, to recreate that universe in music. Of course, every composer will extract a different meaning from the text, nevertheless always with the intention of creating a specific journey with the written words.

Although between Remembering the future… and Tell me again the music of that Talethere are a few differences, — as for example text and harmony — the way of constructing harmony, making a harmonic journey and the whole process of sketching is the same. But each piece is an individual ecosystem and there is no way, at least in the way I am composing them, these two pieces are related. However, they complement each other in the way that engaging with the writing for voice is similar and one helps the other with the idiomatic technique and knowledge about this instrument.

Creating an universe for a text it is not an easy task, specially if working in a parallel one. Separating Remembering the future… from Tell me again the music of that Tale was not easy. I started to create a new harmonic ecosystem, improvised at the piano, created my chords, transposed them and inverted them using the circle of fifths and the harmonic series. I travelled to the library of music knowledge searching for other composers’s works where I engaged with them, speculated about them, learned with them. I studied the poem, I defragmented it, split it in different parts. I asked to the writer to record the poem to be able to understand the phonetic, the accents, the form, the shape of it. I used Logic Pro music software to cut the text and put the accented syllables on the thesis of each bit. Using the existing harmony, I created scales and melodies; I tried to set the text into those scales and the melodies were always written focusing on the text. However, it took me an enormous amount of time to change my brain from the high soprano and ensemble to the high soprano, counter tenor, clarinet, viola and double bass.

Before starting, I was always thinking in what to do and how to do it, trying not to copy myself from the other work. Everything I wrote was not enough and everything seemed to be a sort of continuity of the large ensemble and voice work.

Although writing about it today seems so simple, solving this problem was not easy. Fortunately, the movement I was working in Tell me again the music of that Tale was a fast movement, full of energy, rhythmic patterns and repetitions. I was using the voice in a very high register with nuances between 'non vibrato' and ‘vibrato’, glissandos in the high register and dramatic jumps between the middle low register and the high register. So, in one morning I decided to start Remembering the future… with exactly the opposite gestures. I wrote long harmonic notes in the double bass, muted harmonics in the viola and long melodies in the clarinet. I stretched the words ‘we are’ for the soprano and set them in a middle-low register without vibrato and almost spoken.

From here, the part of my brain that was focused on the other work, seemed to be unlocked. From here, I started to create the universe for this specific work that, although related in time of creation, type of sketching and constructing harmonic material, it is not a copy of Tell me again the music of that Tale.

Now that Remembering the future… is done, the problem may be the opposite: start thinking in what was I doing on Tell me again the music of that Tale and try to separate my brain from Remembering the future… - is the curse of my occupation, I supposed.

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