Bernie Krause in the Arctic
The Great Animal Orchestra Symphony
The Great Animal Orchestra Symphony was co-commissioned by the Cheltenham Music Festival and the Aberystwyth MusicFest. It was first performed on July 12, 2014 in Cheltenham Town Hall by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Martyn Brabbins. Richard Blackford composed The Great Animal Orchestra Symphony based on Wild Soundscapes recorded and assembled by Bernie Krause.
Introduction and Tuning - Andante - Allegro assai (Borneo, Sumatra and The Arctic). Pairs of gibbons serenade each other in the early morning. The orchestra "tunes up", recreating the wild soundscape in a chattering, shimmering texture ranging from high piccolos to the rumble of basses and contrabassoon. The motto theme emerges over a repeated five chord sequence. The movement ends with downward swooping textures combining Arctic seal vocalizations. The tuning ends with a humpback whale elegantly taking over the note of the flute that started the movement.
Scherzo with Riffs - Vivace (North America). A chorus of Pacific tree frogs introduces the orchestral "rhythm section". Gourds, shakers, rattles and woodblocks extend the pattern and a syncopated xylophone rattles over the percussion. A piliated woodpecker punctuates the acoustic space with hammer precision, answered by a cascade of temple blocks. The rest of the orchestra joins in the jam session, growing to a huge tutti extended riff.
Elegy – Andante (North America). The chilling, microtonal chorus of howling wolves is supported by four French Horns in contrapuntal clusters. The atmosphere is bleak and Nature is harsh. A Minnesota beaver utters forlorn cries at the destruction of its family and habitat. A solitary bassoon extends the beaver's lament into a universal elegy for animals displaced by mankind.
March and Charge - Maestoso - Allegro molto (Africa). A chattering woodwind phrase is answered by the lowest instruments in the orchestra and the sub-bass murmurs and growls of African forest elephants. Over a soft orchestral tutti accompaniment the horns play a melody associated with the massive but gentle elephant herd marching through clouds of evening dust. Nearby, the sounds of a gorilla munching bamboo and chest beating. An energetic, fast texture with overlapping ostinati develops into a tense tutti punctuated by wind and brass stabs and the scream of an adult gorilla as she charges.
Variations: Song of the Musician Wren – Vivace (Central America). The musician wren repeats a perky, angular enchanting tune and the orchestral wind answer in variations, with different harmonizations and rhythmic extensions of the song. The common pottoo , with its perfect pentatonic call, interrupts the wren. But the Wren's song develops and keeps going even despite the attempts of the screaming piha to drown her. The motto theme re-emerges as the finale concludes with orchestra and birds joining together in a joyous celebration of natural and musical sound.
— Notes by Richard Blackford