for Recorder Orchestra

For: Large mixed ensemble
page one of Geodesic

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Year of composition
Difficult (Grades 7+)
11 minutes
Modern classical music
License details
For anything not permitted by the above licence then you should contact the publisher first to obtain permission.

Geodesic was written during the winter of 1982/3; one of my aims was to see if the techniques of massed string writing as used by Ligeti and Penderecki could be applied to recorders. 36 recorders are used (2 each of Sopranino and Great Bass, 8 each of Descant, Treble, Tenor and Bass) which frequently have independent lines to play. Some of the writing is aleatoric (ie players are given pitch and/or rhythm sequences to play without reference to unity of pulse). The word ‘geodesic’ for me has connotations of both geometry and astronomy (in the theory of Relativity, a geodesic is the path an object takes through space and time). Most of the initial sketches for the piece consisted of simple geometric shapes and in a way the piece relates to the imagined birth, life and death of the universe. The piece is divided roughly into three sections (‘exposition’, ‘development’ and ‘recapitulation’). At the start a series of upwardly rushing gestures are prominent (germinal explosions as the universe forms?). Elements of a twelve-note-row assemble out of the raw random sounds, but are continually being broken up. The start of the row proper can be written as an expanding ‘wedge’ which may help recognition (G, Ab, F, A, Eb, Bb Db). In the recapitulation the note row is sounded by the whole orchestra, but gradually instruments break away, leaving, at the end, a solo lament on a bass recorder. This is interrupted with increasing violence by the rest of the orchestra. The last of these leaves only specks of light which assemble into a large collection of different scale passages (supported by singing). A big climax, a moment’s silence, and a final chromatic chord, held by each player for as long as his/her breath allows, and with a final flicker of ‘light’ at the end.

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