R’lyeh

Quick post about another project I’ve been doing. The past few weeks have been 12-14 hour days of composition and hard work. The reason? I’ve had two large scale pieces going concurrently. My Lyons Celebration Award piece what fruite of immortality and R’lyeh, a tone poem for symphony orchestra.

It’s been hard work trying to go from one to the other and both deadlines got a little hazy. R’lyeh, or part of it at least was written for a workshop with the University of York Symphony Orchestra. It was very important when this opportunity arose to go for it as there are very few opportunities out there for composers to be able to write for orchestra and hear the results.

R’lyeh is a piece I’ve been wanting to write for a while now. It’s quite unusual in that I chose quite a non-serious subject (the cult sci-fi horror novel, The Call of Cthulhu) to base the tone-poem on. The piece follows the journey of the Alert having beaten off invaders from a cultist ship, as it travels to the mythical land of R’lyeh and there encounters Cthulhu, a be-tenctacled beast from the underworld.

I’m thinking of it as my “Night on a Bare Mountain”. I felt like writing something honest, close to home and fun. More and more recently I’ve been recognising the meaning in things we may think of as mundane – the internet, some of the crap novels you may read, pop music you listen to etc. Like compositional technique and form, I’m finding it’s not the material you use, but how you express that material and what you do with it.

The piece opens with a bell, seemingly that of the alert, swinging back and forth. In this case it is a specto-analysis of a large bell sound that produces a fantastic chord out of its unusual partials. I pass it back and forth in the strings to mimic the swinging of the bell, and the scene is set with the entrance of sea-gulls and a sea texture produced by the brass playing air tones.

That’s about as much as I want to talk about right now. The workshops have now passed so I have paused on finishing the piece, in order to complete what fruite of immortality in time for the performance on 20th June.

The workshops went really well and I was very happy with the material I produced (although annoyed at myself for not having time to produce more). I will be finishing the piece for my PhD submission in October and probably sending it to a number of orchestras in the hope that I can get it performed…

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