Please note that this recording is a demo version only.
2020 Monash Composition Prize
Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University (Clayton, VIC)
PREMIERE: Monash Animated Notation Ensemble (dir. Prof Cat Hope)
Tempo Rubato (Brunswick, VIC)
Velutha was awarded the 2020 Monash Composition Prize
Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University (Clayton, Australia)
INDICATIVE EXCERPT: 2:20 - 4:30
FORMAT: chamber quartet
DURATION: c. 8 mins
SCORE: animated/graphic notation
PERSONNEL: 4 saxophonists
ORCHESTRATION: SATB saxophone & (in order of appearance): bowls of water; radio & speaker; voice; nuts; stomping feet; potato & peeler; sponge; toy cars; sheets of paper; body percussion; laughter; and metal bowl & hammer.
KEY COMPOSITIONAL TECHNIQUES:
- animated & graphic notation
- theatricality & extended instrumental techniques
- found-sound & non-traditional instrumentation
Named after one of several protagonists in The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy’s 1997 novel, Velutha is a multimedia chamber work for SATB saxophone quartet and miscellaneous household objects. The work’s primary intention is to dismantle opaque and elitist art-music traditions through effecting a transparent relationship between scored instruction and sonic realisation. Velutha also aims, like Roy, to juxtapose solemn poignancy with a guileless irreverence. These two motivations are expounded through the use of a vibrant animated score; colour, animation and written instruction combine to emphasise and delineate various gestures throughout the performance. Passages taken from the novel, depicted on-screen as moving text and performed as spoken-word, verbally describe sonic gestures or atmospheres. The score is designed to be an object of both aesthetic beauty and communicative efficiency; the various embedded animations serve concurrently as iconographic performance instructions and as visual references for the audience. Velutha depicts elements of Roy’s novel while maintaining its identity as a standalone composition; in drawing from her dexterous synthesis of seriousness and absurdism, Velutha engages conceptually with the dichotomy between programmatic and absolutist aesthetic music.
Performance & Staging Instructions
There are a series of text boxes incorporated into the score; the different colours of the boxes denote their function:
Note that when speaking various phrases, the speech need not align precisely with the orange bar – the movement of the speech is to be used as a guide, with natural cadence and pauses maintained.
Staging for this piece is somewhat flexible. There are, however, certain practical and compositional requirements to the stage setup. These are all illustrated above. The most important of these is the table configuration; the various non-saxophone instruments rest upon the two tables. The saxophonists must stand in SATB order, and the bowl of nuts must lie between the alto and tenor saxophonists. The reason for having two tables is to make it easier for all performers to share the bowl of water – when required, the performers can move to the gaps between tables in order to access the bowl.
It will be necessary to set up a series of microphones along the table, for amplifying the quieter instruments, and the quieter extended techniques (air clicks). Depending on the performance space, the vocal parts may also need amplification; in this case, several microphones should be set up so that wherever the performers are required to move, they will have access to a microphone for vocal parts. The microphone placement is not indicated in the above diagram, since it is assumed that the sound engineer will know the requirements and properties of the performance space better than I can predict here. Four saxophone stands will need to be positioned behind the table, so that the instruments can be placed down as is stipulated towards the end of the score.