Piece d’Orgue

For Organ

Piece d’Orgue is part of my collection of works under the title Instrumentarium Novum. Its inspiration derives from Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s collection of essays Musik als Klangrede (1992) in which his objective is to guide our knowledge of historical performance practice to arrive at a modern interpretation of masterworks of the past. I see no reason why this aim should not be extended to composition itself.

 

The work was written in 2003 for past and present organists of Wakefield Cathedral: Jonathan Bielby, Thomas Moore, Louise Marsh and Stephen Power. You can find details of the Wakefield organ and read about music at Wakefield Cathedral here.

 

A comparison of the closing bars of Bach’s Fantasia in G major and Piece d’Orgue

Piece d’Orgue takes its starting point from the Piece d’Orgue or Fantasia in G major BWV 572 by J.S.Bach. The French title possibly suggests that this extraordinary 3 section work was to be performed with the first and
third sections played with a simulated plein-jeu registration and the middle with a simulated grand-jeu.
The whole notion of the plein-jeu is a fascinating challenge for the contemporary composer. It not only refers to a registration but the content of the music and a style of performance. My own Piece d’Orgue attempts to reflect in some way 18C descriptions given to plein-jeu music but translated to our musical present. It is hoped that performers will attempt to marry something of their own performance practice of 18C music within this new music.

Detail from an image by Steve Simpson

In this score, as in my work Le Jardin Sec for string quartet, there is an extended notation for staccato devised to provide a clearer visual indication of a possible articulation scheme. This can be found in the introductory notes of the study score. As in Bach’s music for organ there are also no dynamic indications or instructions for registration. However, it is hoped that any registration scheme might reflect something of the sound of the French Baroque organ. Thus, Section 1 is for a single manual (with Pedal) played on the
Positif. Section 2 is cast for two manuals (with Pedal): where the pedals do not play on the Petit Plein Jeu (Positif); where the pedal does play on the Grand Plein Jeu (Grand Orgue). Section 3 may be played on the Positif or Grand Orgue.

Downloads

Study score [pdf]

Reference Recording [mp3]

Annotations of the Symbolic Composer code of the second section of Piece d’Orgue are made available as an introduction to the techniques surrounding the algorithmic control of musical activity via the timesheet and the use of I-Function processing and Scoresheet notations. These approaches to scoring and processing material for a composition originated in Piece d’Orgue and form the core generative technique employed in the Six Concertos for orchestra (Instrumentarium Novum 2003-present)

Annotated code [pdf]