Ensemble Contempora | Sounds of Spirit (Live)

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Classical: Contemporary Avant Garde: Modern Composition Moods: Spiritual
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Sounds of Spirit (Live)

by Ensemble Contempora

This album will take the listener on an interesting and memorable spiritual journey and consists of a selection of instrumental pieces, recorded during a live concert given in Skopje, Macedonia, in November 2015.
Genre: Classical: Contemporary
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Transmutations (Live)
10:00 $1.99
2. Three Human Attributes (Live)
12:25 $1.99
3. String Quartet No. 2, Five Aspects of Spirit (Live)
26:10 $2.99
4. Elegy for the Casualties of War (Live)
10:56 $1.99
5. Duo Concertante (Live)
12:07 $1.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
TRANSMUTATIONS was written in 2012 and is for flute, clarinet, saxophone and piano. The wind instruments each double up on another instrument: the flautist also plays alto flute, the clarinettist also plays bass clarinet and the saxophonist plays both soprano and alto. In one continuous movement, this piece lasts around 8 ½ minutes.

The title suggests change, or transmutating, such as the changes that occur in nature, for example, one chemical element to another, etc. The changes in this piece are purely musical, there being four main sections framed by bridge passages, an introduction and a coda. The introductory five bars state the main melodic idea on the wind instruments, and it is this that is transmutated throughout the four sections. The first main section is a fast dance in an irregular rhythm; the second is a slow elegy; the third is a series of cadenzas for each of the four instruments in turn and the fourth returns to some of the music from the first, but extending the last few bars into a slow coda, resulting in a peaceful conclusion.

THREE HUMAN ATTRIBUTES, completed in January 2008, is in three movements, each movement focussing in turn on the human attributes of body, mind and spirit. The respective titles are Physical Condition, Mind and Human Intellect, and Rational Soul.

The first movement, Physical Condition, is marked Presto and is the shortest. It is a kind of dance that focuses on the ‘brutal qualities’ at the material level of existence.

The second movement, Mind and Human Intellect, is basically a slow movement, marked Adagio. It alternates strong chords with melodic phrases over a gentle rocking accompaniment. The development of these ideas leads to a ‘choral’ based on the main melody, bringing this movement to a calm close.

The third movement, Rational Soul, is the longest, reflecting the importance of mankind’s spiritual nature (human spirit, or rational soul). It is marked Lento, but contains fast moving arpeggios and figuration. It is based on a sequence of nine harmonies, each harmony lasting a bar longer than the previous harmony. Short fragments of the melody from the previous movement are also heard. All phrases are rising, not to a higher physical plain, but to a higher plain of awareness, as reflected by the closing bars.

The STRING QUARTET No 2 was written in 2014. It is in five separate movements and lasts around 25 minutes.

The five movements relate to each of the five aspects of Spirit, namely vegetable, animal, human, Spirit of Faith and the Holy Spirit. These are based on the descriptions of these various aspects given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in ‘Some Answered Questions and ‘Bahá’í World Faith’. Below, I will summarise the link between these descriptions and the music, although I encourage listeners to determine their own conclusions.

All five movements are based on a 5-note motto theme heard at the outset, and this signifies the Oneness of Spirit in all its aspects. The first movement, ‘Vegetable Spirit’, opens with a chordal representation of the motto and three variants. The main theme is a 6/8 melody which expands the second of these variants. The general spirit is lively, and expresses ‘the power of growth’ brought about by the mingling of chemicals, such as water and air as well as elements such as heat and light. Once these chemicals and elements are separated, the power to grow ceases to exist and the vegetable dies.

The second movement, ‘Animal Spirit’, opens with a melodic variation of the motto with instruments in pairs: two bowed and two plucked. An inverted variant of the motto forms the major theme of the movement, also expressing power of growth brought about by the mingling of the same chemicals and elements, although more complete as the animal kingdom is also possessed with senses. The music includes two violent outbursts which suggest how certain animals hunt to kill for their food. The movement ends with the second of these outbursts, signifying – in time – the extinction of a species.

The third movement, ‘Human Spirit’, opens with a more harmonic version of the motto. The main part is a very fast melody in irregular rhythms, showing how the human spirit is distinguished from the others by means of a ‘rational soul’. This enables creativity, discovery and emotion. As the music progresses, we see that human spirit is capable of being the most noble of existing beings, by acquiring virtues; but it is also capable of acquiring vices and imperfection resulting in the most degrading existence. The movement ends, however, as though in prayer, reaching upwards to a higher state of consciousness.

The last two movements appear to enter into much more holy territory. The fourth movement, ‘Spirit of Faith’, represents the Spirit that assists the Human Spirit to become acquainted with Divine Secrets and heavenly realities. This can be achieved by the Human Spirit acting as a mirror to the light from the Spirit of Faith, this being represented by means of the motto theme appearing with its inversion at the start of the movement. An atmosphere created by means of tremolos indicates that this Spirit is the cause of eternal life, and is capable of transforming imperfect man to perfect and the earthly man heavenly.

The final movement, ‘Holy Spirit’, is extremely slow with a very slightly faster central section in triple time. This Spirit is the mediator between God and His creatures. It is adorned with all the Divine perfections and it renews the world of humanity, giving new spirit to the human realities. Being the Holiest of the Spirits, the movement is based on harmonics made up from the motto theme and, when these return after the central section, they seem to rise to a higher state, culminating in complete silence and contemplation.

Written in 2009, ELEGY FOR THE CASUALTIES OF WAR is for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, and lasts just under 10 minutes.

The work is in 3 sections played without a break, Andante, Presto and Adagio. With so many conflict zones in different parts of the world, I felt inspired to write an elegy for those people who die unjustly in these circumstances and to remember their families who are left behind.

It is not appropriate to give an analysis of what each section means as I believe that listeners can interpret this for themselves. Just to say that the thoughts I had in mind for the closing bars are that those who have passed on in these circumstances are no longer suffering and, even though they part this world earlier than expected, their souls are being looked after and they are at peace.

DUO CONCERTANTES was written in 2014 and is for Vibraphone, Marimba and String Quintet. The duration is 11.5 minutes.

The title suggests a kind of concerto on a small scale, with the vibraphone and marimba as soloists. There are five sections which play without a break: a fast irregular rhythmic opening called ‘Dialogues’, a short ‘Interlude’, a slow ‘Passacaglia’, a short ‘Cadenza’ (mainly for the soloists) and a ‘Finale’.

The first section starts with short loud chords in the strings, after which the soloists take over. This happens a second time and is followed by a calmer melodic section. After a while, the opening chords resume and the soloists calm the pace for the Interlude. This is slower and starts on high strings and soloists, but these fade away as the strings slowly descend. The Passacaglia opens with the main theme on the double bass and this is repeated in various guises. The climax occurs with the theme on high strings played tremolo, then the soloists play the same. This abruptly cuts off, leading to soft developments of the main theme.

Calm is abruptly interrupted by the Cadenza, in the centre of which the main melodic idea from the first movement is stated. Excitement builds, then calms down, leading to the Finale. Again this opens with a duet for the soloists, but the strings take over a fast descending phrase and repeat the soloist’s duet in the bass. These ideas are developed and interrupted by a very fast string figuration out of which the vibraphone states the opening idea. Excitement builds up and a development of the opening chords is stated, and the piece builds to a fast and exciting close.



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New Musical Experience
The music in this album is both new and very approachable. Ensemble ConTempora's interpretation of Malcolm Dedman's scores is genuine, despite this being the first performance of most of this music. The spiritual highlight is definitely the 2nd String Quartet, subtitled 'Five Aspects of Spirit'; the emotional climax is the 'Elegy for the Casualties of War', made more poignant here as it was performed the day after the Paris bombings; and the physical climax comes at the end, with the Duo Concertante for vibraphone, marimba and string quintet. This is highly recommended listening.