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No Doubt: Concerto for MIDI harp and orchestra

One of the most ambitious projects involving our MIDI concert harp is ‘No Doubt’, the first concerto for concert MIDI harp and orchestra, by British composer Graham Fitkin. It was commissioned by harpist Sioned Williams, with the support of Camac Harps and the PRS For Music Foundation, and received its world premiere at on January 26th, 2011, at the Maida Vale Studios in London, England. It was performed by Sioned and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Litton. Dominic Murcott and Jakez François provided technical assistance.

“The ability of this new instrument to play recorded samples or trigger MIDI effects and parameters means that the archetypal Western perspective of the harp and its associated heavenly docility can be turned on its head. Unlimited soundscapes can be created, meaning that careful choices have to be made so that the end result isn’t simply a gimmicky glossary of effects.

I wanted to inject a certain brutality and rawness into the music and decided exclusively to use speech sounds, many of them untreated and bare. This brought up the notion of communication, understanding and the human voice. I want the music to hover between abstraction and narrative, to use voices we may recognise and to focus on the rhetorical posturing machismo of modern political life in contrast to that dreamy harp sound we’re accustomed to.”

Graham Fitkin

The concerto premiere enjoyed widespread publicity in the British press, and was broadcast on national radio station BBC Radio 3 on February 1st, 2011.

Publishing information

Published by Ricordi

Orchestration

Solo MIDI concert harp; piccolo, 2 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons; 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones (3rd is bass trombone), tuba;  timpani; single percussion, including vibraphone; piano; strings

Duration: 16 minutes

Technical specifications, as noted by Dominic Murcott at the premiere

  • Full range PA system for audience with multiband e.q. compression and reverb
  • 1 monitor on-stage for harpist
  • 1 monitor for conductor
  • Side fill monitoring for orchestra (only if deemed absolutely necessary by composer/conductor)
  • 1 offstage Mac laptop with high quality audio interface
  • Software sampler for sample playback e.g. Apple’s Mainstage
  • 2 outputs for harp samples, 2 for voice samples
  • Long MIDI cable from harp to laptop
  • Onstage power for harp (220V)
  • Offstage power for laptop
  • 4 x DI for laptop

Speech samples used in the concerto (triggered by MIDI harp strings)

 Voices of: George Bush, Dick Cheney, Robin Cook, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld.

accurate – careful – no – facts – we know – doubt – there is no doubt – there isn’t any debate about it – mass – no – destruction – there’s no doubt in my mind – we have facts not speculations – it is only because – the threshold for war should always be high – careful about what we’ve said – weapons of mass destruction – Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction – Iraq’s military strength is now less than half its size at the time of the last gulf war – it’s only because Iraq’s military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion – we cannot base a military strategy on the assumption that  Saddam is weak, and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat…

Links to articles, reviews and publicity surrounding the premiere

Unfortunately, those of you outside the UK will not be able to access the BBC audio or video links. We’re sorry about this, but there’s nothing we can do – we can’t access them either. It may be possible to obtain a copy of the full-length recording, depending on what you want it for – ask us at [email protected]

 

Concerto premiere broadcast, Afternoon on Three, BBC Radio 3

Sioned interviewed on Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4

Sioned was also interviewed on “In Tune”, BBC Radio 3, but the clip is no longer available

Welsh-language interview with Sioned for BBC Wales

Sioned on the BBC Radio 3 blog

Pre-premiere seminar at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London

MIDI workshop with Sioned, Dominic Murcott and Jakez at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London

Portrait of Sioned Williams

Interview with Sioned in Harpseasons (Spring / Summer 2011)

Interview with Graham Fitkin by Bob Briggs

Review by Alexander Rider:  Download Review Alexander Rider

Classical Source Review by Andrew Morris

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