Ding Dong!

January 16th, 2007

Calling all composers eleven notes in under eleven days
Could you compose a short piece to be performed on York Minsters chime bells on Saturday 20th January, as the pre-concert introduction to Spire a striking, magical exploration of sound and space which invites you to think again about the church organ?
This is your opportunity to step into the shoes of one of Britains most famous composers – Michael Nyman, who was due to perform a new work, but now has to be at the Sundance Film Festival.
The time slot is from 6.45 to 7.00pm and the promoters SightSonic, Touch and the University of York – are hoping to feature two or three short works.
It was a great shame that Michael had an unavoidable conflict, but we see this as an opportunity for other composers, said Peter Boardman, chair of SightSonic. The idea came out of a conversation with artists Paul Kaiser and Marc Downie of the OpenEnded Group, whose new work is being projected onto the East End of the Minster until 28 January. They set the challenge of composing for eleven notes in the remaining eleven days available.
Dr. Tony Myatt, University of York Music department, who will be among the selectors, described the chime bell keyboard as a set of wooded levers – like a carillon, but not chromatic. It has 11 notes, a diatonic scale spanning a 10th plus a sharp fourth. Considered in C, the keyboard is C to E’ (octave + 2 tones) plus an F#. The notation that I played was written in C, but the bells sound in D. The keyboard is played with the base of the hand (a vertically oriented loose fist, playing almost with the side of the knuckle of the 5th finger), normally using alternate hands. Some limited two part writing is also possible. I would estimate that one of the skilled Minster players could play semiquavers at crotchet = 90. Because the keyboard is manual, only two notes can be played at any one time.
The selected work will be performed by one of the members of the York Minster Society of Change Ringers. Entries should be sent to peter.boardman@york.gov.uk.
Spire has been performed at cathedrals and churches in Geneva, Linz, Amsterdam and Brussels in Europe and in Newcastle and Leeds Town Hall in the UK. This production is a partnership between SightSonic, Touch and the University of Yorks Concert Series, by kind permission of the Dean & Chapter of York Minster.

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Any composers amongst us? I know there are…

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