A MAGIC DWELLS for Symphony Orchestra and Recorded Sounds, 1984
Performance practicality: Special pause/play instructions for recording engineer, new notations, special instructions for conductor, on-string piano preparations. timing in seconds and meter, amplifier and stereo loudspeakers.
In 1982 Priscilla McLean received a National Endowment for the Arts Composer Grant to write a work for orchestra and tape*. From a recording session with the University of Texas Symphonic Orchestra, McLean gathered some of the source material for the tape part, and sketches for the orchestral part. From these the piece was scored at the MacDowell Colony in early 1984 and revised later that year. From the orchestral-electronic texture emerges a magical sound: “voices” of the instruments “singing” ancient messages of creation. A sustained stringed chord on tape, mysterious in origin, evokes a sense of timelessness. The messages arise alone or are mixed with the busy, energetic “life” in the orchestra.
The “voices” were created by blending the recorded instrumental groups with actual sung voices (Trevor Wishart— U.K. composer, Barton McLean, and Priscilla McLean) processed through the vocoder (electronic sound-modifying instrument). As is in keeping with the mystery of Creation, the messages** are very short phrases (in English) in various degrees of clarity, from Hebrew, Christian, Egyptian, Chinese, and American Wintu Indians, ending with a speech from Hermann Hesse: “A magic dwells at each beginning and protecting us it tells us how to live” (“Magister Ludi”). The structure of A MAGIC DWELLS involves progressive extension of the rhythmic and melodic ostinati in the orchestra, reaching a climax when the tape proclaims “All Colors of the World” and sustaining a solo orchestra section afterwards, gradually dying down as the last phrases are heard. Harmonically, the tape provides a dense chord against which the other sounds on tape and in the orchestra progress from simple to complex and back to simple chordal structures at the end.
Orchestrated at The MacDowell Colony in 1984, A MAGIC DWELLS was premiered as the winning composition of the 17th Sigvald Thompson Composition Competition by the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony on January 31, 1988, Robert Hanson conducting. The recording below is from the dress rehearsal of that premiere. A MAGIC DWELLS is published by the composer under the title MLC Publications.
*tape was the medium for recording at that time. Now recorded sounds are on CDs or streamed from the computer.
** The messages: Underlined passages are used in the piece:
A Magic Dwells. Fargo-Moorhead Orchestra - Unknown Artist
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