Jonathan Harvey: Song Offerings and White as Jasmine

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Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2009 - Music - 149 pages
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Jonathan Harvey (b. 1939) is one of Britain's leading composers: his music is frequently performed throughout Europe, the United States (where he has lived and worked) and Japan. He is particularly renowned for his electro-acoustic music, an aspect on which most previous writing on his work has focused. The present volume is the first detailed study of music from Harvey's considerable body of work for conventional forces. It focuses on two pieces that span one of the most fertile periods in Harvey's output: Song Offerings (1985; awarded the prestigious Britten Award), and White as Jasmine (1999). The book explores the links between the two works - both set texts by Hindu writers, employ a solo soprano, and adumbrate a spiritual journey - as well as showing how Harvey's musical language has evolved in the period between them. It examines Harvey's techniques of writing for the voice, for small ensemble (Song Offerings), and for large orchestra, subtly and characteristically enhanced with electronic sound (White as Jasmine). It shows how Harvey's music is informed by his profound understanding of Eastern religion, as well as offering a clear and accessible account of his distinctive musical language. Both works use musical processes to dramatic and clearly audible effect, as the book demonstrates with close reference to the accompanying CD recordings. The book draws on interviews with the composer, and benefits from the author's exclusive access to sketches of the two works. It contextualizes the works, showing how they are the product of a diverse series of musical influences and an engagement with ideas from both Eastern and Western religions. It also explores how Harvey has continued to develop the musical and spiritual preoccupations revealed in these pieces in his recent work, up to and including his third opera, Wagner Dream (2007).
 

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Contents

Jonathan Harveys Musical Development from the 1950s
5
Metaphysical Preoccupations
29
Song Offerings 1985
45
White as Jasmine 1999
75
Harveys Music in the TwentyFirst Century
111
Works by Jonathan Harvey
129
Select Bibliography
135
Track List
145
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About the author (2009)

Michael Downes is Director of Music at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, UK.

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