Whale Songs


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Orpheus Music

Composer: Bousted - Donald 

Instrumentation: Tenor - Treble (or Bass - Treble )

Period/genre: Contemporary

Grade: Very Difficult

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*Contemporary Piece.* Wonderfully ethereal and atmospheric piece using, voice microtones and multiphonics and some tricky rhythms.

1. Whale Songs

_Score 12 pp._

  • Reviews
  • OMP100 Donald Bousted Whale Song

    As one might expect, Whale Song by Donald Bousted was premiered by those staunch advocates of microtonal recorder music Kathryn Bennetts and Peter Bowman.  In fact they gave the first performance at York in 1999 in a special version with live electronics.

    The work opens with a sort of plainsong-like music on bass and tenor recorders, both players singing in unison with their parts.  This gives way to a section where the lower part plays multiphonics above which there is a driving demisemiquaver rhythm involving many different versions, 1/8 sharp, etc., of the note C.  The roles are then reversed, the tenor having now switched to alto, before this is succeeded by a section of complex rhythmic interweaving where the pitches are heavily microtonal.  A more flowing central section for two altos follows making a feature of quintuplet rhythms.  The piece then repeats some earlier material in reverse order creating an arching structure to the work before a busy final section, which, once again, makes a feature of the bass recorder.

    A highly intense work, which will, I'm sure, find favour with those with a penchant for such intricacies.  One potential difficulty for performers may be the choice of renaissance recorders upon which to perform Whale Song.  With so many different styles of instrument on the market, both mass-produced and hand-made, finding appropriate recorders capable of the demands made on them may prove tricky.  Perhaps it is the case that Whale Song was not only written for two particular performers, but for two musicians with the capabilities of their own particular instruments firmly in mind.

    Adam J. Dopadlik The Recorder Magazine Summer 2003 Vol. 23 no. 2

    OMP126 Benjamin Thorn, Wefts

    OMP100 Donald Bousted, Whale Song

    Here are two unusual works by well-established composers whose names will be familiar to most recorder players. I first introduced both of them to AR readers many years ago (they were up-and-coming at the time) when I was writing "On the Cutting Edge".

    Benjamin Thorn is perpetually a unique musician. Wefts (an archaic word meaning "weaves") is a work that mixes rapid, randomly played and continually repeated note groups with melodies. During several parts of the piece, different melodic lines are heard at the same time, intertwining and crossing each other's ranges. What holds the piece together is its modality that is based on some of Olivier Messiaen's modes of limited transposability. The result is a simultaneous feeling of restlessness and stasis.

    English composer Donald Bousted is best known for his many duets written for Kathryn Bennetts and Peter Bowman, all (except this one) published in England by Composer Press. Whale Song is a difficult work that is, like much of Bousted's recorder music, very microtonal. In this particular case, Bousted utilizes eighth notes that are to be produced by special fingerings.

    Much of the content of this duet consists of rapid staccato notes within a very narrow range, and sustained multiphonics that have off-beat entrance points. The combination of these two elements requires great rhythmic precision and would be difficult to play even without the microtonality. A little blurb printed above the title on the first page of the score informs us that the initial performance of this work was rendered with live electronics. That probably made a big difference in how the music came across

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