Sunday, September 14, 2014

Townsend: Symphony No. 2, "Tres Imágenes"

I have been working on a second symphony for a while now. I was having a few problems with playback, but the folks at Finale solved them for me so now I can put up the synthesized version of the piece. This one has a title, "Tres Imágenes", in Spanish because I think it likely that the first performance will be here in Mexico.

The title of the symphony as a whole is, in English, "Three Images" and the individual movement titles are:

  1. White Bird, Blue Sky
  2. Walking in the Mountains
  3. Unbounded Vision in Blue and Grey
The titles in Spanish are in the video. The inspiration for this piece was three moments in my life when I was powerfully struck by an image of nature. The first one was here in Mexico when I looked up and saw a couple of white egrets flying overheard against a background of absolutely blue sky. It just struck me as a kind of perfection. The second experience was on Vancouver Island many years ago. I was hiking in the mountains in the north-central part of the island close to the highest mountain on the island, the Golden Hinde. I wasn't aware I was anywhere near the mountain as it was concealed by lower hills and ridges. Then, as I crested the brow of the hill and looked up, there it was. I felt suddenly projected into a much larger universe! The third experience is a synthesis of a number of separate ones. I used to live a couple of blocks from the ocean on the southern tip of Vancouver Island and it was my habit to take a walk down by the water every day or so. The view was of the seascape, the sky and mountains in the distance. The sea and sky together with the light created different colors and textures every time I saw them. The colors of blue and grey predominated.

So that was the inspiration for the symphony, three striking images of nature. All I am doing is trying to capture some of the feeling of these experiences, nothing more. No "program". As Beethoven said of his Pastoral Symphony it is "more the expression of feeling than painting".

I have chosen just a few photos for the video clip: an egret against a blue sky (but I could find no photo in which the sky was as profoundly blue as I saw it), a couple of photos of the Golden Hinde, and three photos of the sea and sky as I recall seeing them.

The instrumentation is flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, tympani, large gong and strings.

I hope you enjoy the piece and I apologize for only having a synthesized version for you. It might give a sketchy idea of the music. The original video, done in iMovie, was just under 400 megabytes, which I have compressed down to 40 mg in order to post it here. 

I consider this piece finished and I'm starting work on a Symphony No. 3...

UPDATE: I don't know why the clip has a YouTube icon as this clip was never anywhere near YouTube. If you click on it, you will go to YouTube, but won't see the clip. Plus, when you come back you will have to start all over. So don't click on "YouTube". You can see it fullscreen, though. But I don't see any particular advantage as the sound will be the same and the photos a bit blurry.


Rickard Dahl said...

1st movement: The movement sounds nice but you could vary the string part a bit. I refer to the constant back and forth between two tones that can be heard throughout most of the movement (not sure what to call it, an ostinato maybe?).

2nd movement: Intense and uplifting. For some reason it sounds American (as in American symphonic music) to me (which is a nice thing of course). Nice work!

3rd movement: Great mood and cool orchestration touches. Also outstanding melodic parts.

Are the transitions between the movements supposed to be without pause?

Overall, it's a very nice symphony.

Bryan Townsend said...

I think you hit on what has been troubling me about these symphonies: how to achieve enough variety. I've been thinking a lot about it and some solutions are starting to come. Yes, that's an ostinato in the first movement. The second movement is probably influenced a lot by Philip Glass. Lurking in the background of this whole symphony is probably some Debussy influence. In the last movement I was quite happy with how the orchestration worked out.

Let me just stress that the sound in the original is pretty good, but I had to compress it a lot to get it on the blog. So the sound you are hearing is far from ideal.

Thanks so much for the comments!