BENEATH THE HORIZON in Three Versions:
BENEATH THE HORIZON I for Tuba Quartet and Recorded Sounds (Whales), 1978;
BENEATH THE HORIZON III for Tuba Solo and Recorded Sounds plus Ocean, 1979;
and the Recorded Version of BENEATH THE HORIZON III with video, 1982.
BENEATH THE HORIZON I: Inspired by the vinyl recording “Songs of the Humpbacked Whale” and a tuba recital by Steven Bryant at the University of Texas at Austin, Priscilla McLean composed BENEATH THE HORIZON I in 1978, which was premiered by the First Texas Tuba Quartet at the Southern Methodist University’s Festival of New Music, Dallas, in Feb. 1979. Performers read from full score, as the parts are intricately interwoven. In 1981 a recording was made using Melvyn Poore on tubes 1 and 2, and Steven Bryant on tubas 3 and 4. The recorded sounds feature whale songs using and sometimes altering the recording above and “Deep Voices”, both on Capitol Records (1971). This version can be played with the tubists with or without a conductor, and recorded sounds played on Quicktime or other m4a player. Duration: 12:50
BENEATH THE HORIZON III: This solo version of BENEATH THE HORIZON was composed in 1979 and was one of the winners of the Gaudeamus Festival, Holland, premiered at the festival on Sept.1979 by Melvyn Poore, English tubist. Poore performed this work on several tours around Europe and England for the next few years. Liebe Gray, tubist, built a set with a giant whale sculpture housed in a water-filled “aquarium” for stage performance at the Los Angeles’ Provisional Theater,1982. Gary Buttery, Barton Cummings, Steven Bryant, James Gourlay, and many other tubists have performed and toured with this work until the present day. In 1981, Melvyn Poore made a recording of the music which ln 1984 Opus One Records placed on an album called “Electro-Surrealistic Landscapes of the McLean Mix.”
BENEATH THE HORIZON III uses actual whale songs with composed tuba music. At the beginning of this 13-minute work, the tuba and whales are so integrated that they cannot be distinguished apart, the whale sounds like flutter-tongued tuba pedal tones, and gradually evolving from the tuba sonorities to their own, with the tuba at times singing whale-like sonorities. Throughout the work, the two qualities merge and separate, often creating sounds like neither group. The whale songs have been taken from old recordings, with hiss, pops, and distortions electronically removed, and at times speed changed, usually lowered and sometimes lengthened. No other sounds but whales are used on the recorded CD.
The tuba music is generally unconventional, with pedal-tone flutter-tongues, "howling" and singing through the instrument, half-valve glissandi, open valve slides, and whistling across the shank end of the mouthpiece, which is cupped in the hands and rotated to create different pitch areas combining with the whistle. This occurs during the whale whistles, creating an intriguing combination. Along with these are more traditional motivic and melodic passages for the tuba.
The effect of BENEATH THE HORIZON III is of a special ethereal environment, projecting the haunting qualities of both musics. The title was influenced by the poignant philosophical longing of the main character in Eugene O'Neill's one-act play "Beyond the Horizon", and applies to our longing for the sea and the great, endangered, singing beings within.
The McLean Mix toured coast to coast with the original Poore recording plus a slide show created by Priscilla McLean, from 1982 to 1985. This version was named BENEATH THE HORIZON. The slides were converted to video in 2016 and the whole piece with Poore’s performance can be viewed on YouTube. When the McLean Mix performed in Bergen, Norway in December, 1983, BENEATH THE HORIZON was on the program. Because of the ban on whaling, Norway was having trouble hunting whales, and Greenpeace was being relentless in its harassing the whaling ships. Because the people believed that the McLeans were members of Greenpeace, untrue at that time, the concert was nearly cancelled, and a boycott was in effect, with policemen roaming the hall. Only seven audience members showed up, although the concert went on as planned, without any performance problems.