• Dave Heath
  • Alone at the Frontier: Concerto for Improvised Instrument and Orchestra (1993)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • 2(afl:pic,afl)22(bcl)22.3(flg).2+btbn.1timp.2percstr
  • [min 3S, 2Mz, 2Bar, B]
  • violin
  • 30 min

Programme Note

In 1989 Nigel Kennedy played my first work Out of the Cool with the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra and requested that I repeat a two bar section over which he wanted to improvise. The improvisation he played was highly unusual in that the sounds he produced from the violin, by the use of ponticelli and bowing effects, were almost electronic sounding.

When Kennedy asked me to write this piece, I decided that instead of trying to restrict him or notate some of his electronic/acoustic effects I would write a piece with no solo part at all and challenge him by the use of the orchestra into being as extreme as he could. Basically, although two or three cues are notated, the soloist can play anything at any point, as long as it sounds good. Nigel's only request was that the piece should be "right to the edge of my musical imagination".

So here it is: a "street" concerto. It uses industrial percussion, a "rap" choir (imitating electronic drum effects) as well as stereo imaging in the orchestra, live delay in the winds and some electronic effects on the violin (most notably quadrophonic figure of eight configurations). The orchestral parts are fully notated (except for the percussion from B5 on).

Due to the lighting effects, which are quite extreme at times, the orchestra (and choir) should have pit style music stands (ie. stands with lights on) enabling the light show to be really
dramatic and unhindered by visability problems.

Finally, one thing to remember about the piece - "take it all the way".

Violin amplification
Setting 1 amplified, no effects or reverb
Setting 2 at 2 bars before K4, start to add delay (approx. 2 sec)
Setting 3 around Z4 to AS, start adding figure of eight pre-programmed pattern which gradually gets more and more manic (ie. changing direction faster and faster) till 05
Setting 4 at O5, push in Setting 4 ie. figure of eight configurations gradually get slower and quieter. At around P5 violin is back to Setting 1

timp - timps, whip, crasher*, mark tree, cym on timp

perc 1- crasher*, saw, tam tam, glass tree, waterfone, cym, 3 toms, high hat, mark tree, conga, snare drum

perc 2 - snare drum, tam tam, crasher*, thunder sheet, 3 toms, bell tree, Tibetan bell, high hat

*crasher two springy plates of sheet metal which when hit sound like a cross between an electronic snare and a whip

The industrial vat (Y4) should be a large industrial metal object (iron girder or iron vat) that has a good sound. If the concert hall has metal pipes or similar structure these could be used instead of, or at the same time as, the iron girder. Feel free to experiment. Make the piece your own.

I have used the choir in many contexts during the piece. The "n" sounds (first used 6 bars after El) are grunts - as in an electronic bass drum sound. The "pf" & "Ks" sounds are electronic snare drum type of sounds while the "ts" sounds are electronic high hat: the overall effect of which should be like street rappers i.e. like an electronic drum box. The choir should consist of at least 3 sopranos, 2 contraltos, 2 baritones and 1 bass. Sometimes the lines go too low for the sopranos in which case sopranos tacet etc.

The choir is amplified i.e. each singer has a separate microphone.

View Score

Preview the score