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"The London Underground"

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Hi. I am sorry that I have gone a couple weeks without posting right after I say that I am done with my self-imposed hiatus. I have spent much of that time at The Happiest Place on Earth as Long as the Temperature is Below 85 and the Lines are Not Too Long Especially for Soarin' Neither of Which Was Exactly True.

Anyway. I said I would post a recording of "The London Underground," my newish half-hourish work for handbells, handchimes, string orchestra, and piano, and so here it is. I should point out that this is actually a "recording," not a recording, so while I think I did a pretty decent job of making the work sound close to accurate, a lot of the nuances of a live performance aren't there. (Dynamics in particular suck.) Also, the bell sound is good, but not great.

No, I do not really expect any of you not named MLeary to listen to the entire half-hour, so feel free to cherrypick movements. Or, uh, not listen at all.

I also had a different multi-movement work of mine premiere this summer at the Walden School, so once I get a recording of that performance I'll post it for the benefit of the two of you who are interested.

Dale

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Posted · Report post

I missed this when you posted it weeks ago. Worth the wait. I am always shocked by the tones you get from bells, and I don't quite understand the physics of it all. They soothe the Steve Reich shaped hole in my ears nonetheless. So when do you get to start playing backup to Bjork?

Central through Victoria is very engaging, as is Jubilee through the end. The Hammersmith groove must be wonderful live, and at that point halfway through when the additional instruments enter, I find myself almost wishing it would crescendo into full-bore Sigur Ros opera. I can get a sense of how much dimension there is here in a live performance.

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You know, Bjork actually did do a handbell remix of...oh, I don't remember. "Who Is It," I think. (Yes, Google tells me that is correct.) It's pretty okay. In all no modesty, I could have done a better job of arranging it than whoever did. (I was going to do a handbell remix of Radiohead's "Nude" for their contest awhile back, but I never had the time.)

A lot of what I've done is somewhat Reichian, but "TLU" is probably more so than anything else I've done, for better or worse (depending on one's opinion of Reich). As you might have guessed, in a live performance "Hammersmith" crescendos starting at the middle point to the end, as does "The London Overground" (except decrescendoing when the other instruments drop out).

The "bell" sounds in the "recording" are actually three different voices: a standard handbell, a standard handchime, and a handbell played using the singing bowl technique. There's actually more handbell sounds used when played live, but I didn't have soundfonts of the other sounds.

One of the top handbell groups in the U.S. is asked about potentially performing and recording the piece, so we'll see what happens...

Dale

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This is absolutely fabulous. I have to tell you, Dale, that my experience with handbells consists of too many Sundays listening to well-intentioned but dreadfully dull Presbyterians shaking the handbells to "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." This is not that. As M. Leary has noted, there's a distinct Steve Reich influence, and I love it. Well done, sir. I'm so glad I checked out your latest composition.

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One of the top handbell groups in the U.S. is asked about potentially performing and recording the piece, so we'll see what happens...

Dale

This is excellent. Does that mean that they would perform the piece live with the background instrumentation as well? Sorry if this is a dumb question, I am ignorant as to how handbell performance works. I spent years as a tenor in a very reputable choir that had the traditional handbell line-up every now and then, but that is the extent of my firsthand experience.

Edited by MLeary

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This is absolutely fabulous. I have to tell you, Dale, that my experience with handbells consists of too many Sundays listening to well-intentioned but dreadfully dull Presbyterians shaking the handbells to "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." This is not that. As M. Leary has noted, there's a distinct Steve Reich influence, and I love it. Well done, sir. I'm so glad I checked out your latest composition.

Um, wow. Thanks, Andy. That means a lot coming from you.

Certainly I arrange some of the "Sunday morning" handbell music as well (of the 30 pieces I've had published, probably 20 fall into that genre), although as you'd expect I'm one of the more progressive handbell arrangers -- mucking with the chord progressions, setting a 4/4 piece in 6/4 or 7/8, overlapping multiple countermelodies, etc.

This is excellent. Does that mean that they would perform the piece live with the background instrumentation as well?

Yep. It would be a full handbell choir covering the handbell and handchime parts (normally 12-13 ringers, but probably more here because of way the handbells and handchimes overlap), 20 or so strings, and a pianist. There's three other handbell choirs that are interested in performing it with all the instrumentation as well, although none of them are looking at recording it as far as I'm aware. All of this is ubertentative, I should point out, because none of the directors have seen the score yet (I'm finalizing it this week); the interest is all based on the "recording."

Dale

Edited by M. Dale Prins

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Posted · Report post

No, I do not really expect any of you not named MLeary to listen to the entire half-hour, so feel free to cherrypick movements. Or, uh, not listen at all.

Dale

Dale,

I just wanted to say that I also listened to this other day and rather enjoyed it. Did you put this together using Soundfonts?

I know we use handbells occasionally at church - maybe I'll send our music guy your way.

Ryan

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Thanks, Ryan. And yes, the "recording" was created entirely using SoundFonts.

Dale

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