speechless song, seeming many, being one ‘Sonnet n° 8’ by William Shakespeare

Composed in
2010
For
Solo Voice with 2 Crotales
Versions for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Contralto, Tenor, Baritone & Bass
Duration
ca. 6′
First performance
March 31, 2011 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels (B). Laure DELCAMPE, soprano.

Recording of the first performance :

Commissioned by
The International Queen Elisabeth Competititon for Singing 2011
Dedicated to
colleague-teachers of composition at the Rotterdam Conservatory : Peter-Jan Wagemans, Robin de Raaff, Jan-Bas Bollen, René Uijlenhoet, Paul Van Brugge & Klaas De Vries
Publisher
Koningin Elisabethwedstrijd
Luc on “speechless song, seeming many, being one” :
“speechless song, seeming many, being one” was commissioned by the International Queen Elisabeth Competition as the compulsory work for the semi-finals of the 2011 edition for singing. It meant I had to compose 6 versions, one for each basic voice type. Normally, such pieces are conceived with a piano accompaniment, but I didn’t want to embarrass the pianists with (inevitably a-pianistic) transpositions. After all it was meant for a singing competition. At some point, after I had decided on the text of the beautiful “Sonnet n° 8” by William Shakespeare, I got the idea to compose a solo work, albeit that the singer is supposed to accompany him/her-self by playing 2 Crotales. The score was completed in October 2010.
At the end, the work was not used for its purpose, although the artistic committee of the Competition didn’t make any problem about the score. During the first selections by the international jury of well known singers, those people looked into the score and told the direction of the Competition that it was impossible to study the work in the 2 months assigned. I suppose that this was mainly due to the use of quarter tones in my piece. They had no eye for the (very) lyrical and vocal qualities of the work, and they ‘blackmailed’ the direction in some way. The press jumped on this, so this work became a kind of a scandal before it even had been performed.
The first performance was given on March 31, 2011 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts (Bozar) in Brussels, as part of the final concert of the Ars Musica Festival, by soprano Laure Delcampe who studied the score in three weeks only. Maybe because of its history, the music was received with enormous success.
The music is based on spectral harmonies, hence the frequent use of quarter tones in the melodic lines. There are little so-called ‘special effects’, because I believe a voice has to sing in the first place. I also aimed to compose in such a way that the Shakespeare text would remain as intelligible as possible. The two Crotales are both a help to remain in tune as mark points in time and as such emphasizing the overall structure of the work. Towards the end, they gain importance, the last lines of the poem seemed the most important to me and I wanted to give it extra lyricism and weight.
The score is dedicated to my friends and colleague-teachers of composition at the Rotterdam Conservatory : Peter-Jan Wagemans, Robin de Raaff, Jan-Bas Bollen, René Uijlenhoet, Paul Van Brugge & Klaas De Vries.
Luc Brewaeys