Tongues of Angels Barry D. Truax

Tongues of Angels was commissioned by and written for Lawrence Cherney with the assistance of the Canada Council. The tape portion is based entirely on short fragments or ’phonemes’ of sounds from the two instruments used by the soloist, the oboe d’amore and English horn. Using granular synthesis these sounds were reconstructed to create a virtuosic environment with which the performer interacts. In this interaction the progression from speeds and patterns within the performance range of the instrumentalist to those achievable only by the computer creates much of the underlying dramatic tension of the work. We sense the struggle of the performer to match the virtuosity of the tape part and to transcend the limitations of human performance. The transcendence finally materialises at the end of the work when, after a gradual accelerando in both parts from syncopated rhythms through to fused textures and continuous gestures, there is a dramatic downward glissando on the tape. Despite the fact that all material was derived from the instruments heard live in the performance, the effect is suddenly that of a choir of voices, a transcendent image that inspired the Biblically derived title of the work. Perhaps it could also be a metaphor for the technique of granular synthesis that seems to break into a new sonic domain.

  • Year of composition: 1988
  • Format: Mixed work
  • Instrumentation: oboe d’amore, English horn and 4 digital soundtracks
  • Software used: PODX system for sound synthesis and composition
  • Duration of the submitted work: 13:15
  • Publisher: CMC Centrediscs
  • Production: Sonic Research Studio, Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, British Columbia)
  • Premiere: March 16, 1988, North American New Music Festival (Buffalo, USA), 16-iii-1988; «Two New Hours», CBC FM (Toronto, Ontario), 18-ix-1988
  • Disc publication: Tongues of Angels is available on the Centrediscs CD of the same name, CMC-CD 4793

Linked project

  • CAP
    Allik, Amies, Appleton, Austin, Bach, Bartley, Belkin, Berg, Bonnier, Bouchard…
    314 tracks

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