Programme note for Thames Estuary Nocturne (WP colchester 11/5/2011)

Music for Bass Clarinet, Piano, Electronics.

Thames Estuary Nocturne has its roots in a foggy night back in February when the container ships in the Thames has reached a point of near zero visibility and consequently sounded their horns as they navigated the hazardous stretch from Tilbury, down past Southend on Sea into the North Sea. I live not far from the estuary and having been awoken, decided to drive down to Two-Tree island, not far from me, and placed nearest to the river. I recorded the sounds of the horns orginally for a purely electroacoustic piece, but aware of the oppertunity to work with SCAW, decided to write the bass clarinet as the horns and the piano as a romantic counterpoint & periodic interlude. This would allow me the freedom to move the Bass Clarinet from a purely imitative device into a very musical one and back again.

Having decided to reject the obvious, I sampled the bass clarinets harmonic series then constructed some multiphonic clusters in the laptop that harmonized with the piano and bass clarinet, in order to make a timbre that could both describe the ships horns, change colour with the composition and ultimately provide some interesting, evolving drones across the musical keyboard. This then allowed me to build up a background tapestry of distant and nearer imitatative sounds and some textures that could be modulated with harmonies. In addition I also added some bass synthesis to the electronics to add a further, distant ambient layer of drones and sound and a grounding.

There is one sample used that was difficult to obtain- the wind & distant clanging bell required me to wade out into the estuary mud with microphone in order to record it, and it took several attempts over a couple of days to get the sound I wanted, which i then further modulated in the composition.

I will diffuse the electronic backing live.

The peice will be performed at the Colchester institute on 11th May 2011 at 7.30 PM, there is a facebook event for this here:!/event.php?eid=109049672512656

Link to SCAW (Sarah Watts and Antony Clare)

About stuartrussellcomposer

Composer/ sound artist. Electronic musician. Modern classical composer
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