Specially commissioned, this large-scale polyphonic work is for ten voice choir which is spatially distributed.
Over the last few years, I’ve been working on devising some new types of polyphonic process, specifically for vocal music. This piece is the first fruit of some of my recent thinking about overlapping structures, and the wonderful sounds they can create. Polyphony can’t just be a structure or a system – it must appeal to our emotions, must result in singable parts without awkwardness, and provide a whole which is, somehow, more than the sum of the parts. Here are the Ebor singers, directed by Paul Gameson, in a short extract from the 22 minute work. Use headphones and switch to HD mode if you can, as the recording is very spatious.
Composers throughout the ages have created music for specific locations. However, Architexture One by Ambrose Field explores links between the composition and performance venue in manner more detailed than was traditionally feasible when creating a piece ‘for’ a space. Through the help of an acoustic analysis, Architexture I features precise and intricate connections between the musical material and the architecture of the venue. The information provided by the acoustic analysis is extremely detailed, and is used to inform the compositional process. Decisions as to melodic trajectory, or in particular, the overlapping of rhythmic polyphony, can be made so that the sonic contribution of the acoustic forms an essential part of the compositional design. Whilst the acoustic response of a venue is generally taken into account by most performers, the relationship between the venue’s acoustic and the composition itself is often a more distant one, typically taking the form of an ‘effect’ which is applied long after the compositional processes of writing the work has ended. I wanted to reverse this situation, and compose a piece which could access the subtle and beautiful resonances of the performance venue by design.
Realisation through acoustic research
A team of researchers, led by Jude Brereton of the University of York Department of Electronics Audio Lab, measured the Guildhall’s acoustic for Architexture I, by taking impulse measurements of the time and frequency response of the venue in three dimensional space. Architexture I is a huge monolithic and constantly moving block of sound. The piece looks back to the density of early Renaissance polyphony, and each of the ten vocal parts are treated as soloists. The text, and the polyphonic entries themselves, are arranged in such a way as to form patterns in space around the listeners, on a fine-grained timescale.
Architexture I Score is available for multiple acoustic types – see the about|contact page for contact details.