'Fern Hill': for orchestra and electronics
- Submitting institution
Bangor University / Prifysgol Bangor
- Unit of assessment
- 26 - Modern Languages and Linguistics
- Output identifier
- J - Composition
- Supplementary information
- Request cross-referral to
- 33 - Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies
- Output has been delayed by COVID-19
- COVID-19 affected output statement
- Forensic science
- Number of additional authors
- Research group(s)
- Proposed double-weighted
- Reserve for an output with double weighting
- Additional information
- ‘Fern Hill’ is a setting of Dylan Thomas’ poem of the same name. Rather than a sung vocal line, the piece uses the poet’s own reading of his work as a melodic thread around which an orchestral elaboration is formed. All of the material in the piece – rhythms, melodies, harmonies and even some orchestration – comes directly from this recitation. To achieve this the research builds upon techniques originally developed at Ircam (Paris) for Jonathan Harvey’s ‘Speakings’ (2008) and draws to some extent on Peter Ablinger’s ‘Speaking Piano’ series. Ircam’s Orchidée (now Orchids) was used to formulate computer-aided orchestrations of Dylan’s unique vowel colourings. These approaches were integrated with software specially created for the project using Cycling74 Max, including that used during the performance itself.
The aim of the research was to adapt these specialist, ‘academic’ techniques for use within a more direct, accessible musical language suitable for the year-long national celebration of Dylan’s centenary for which the piece was composed. In this way, the work applies research in advanced techniques to the creation of music that captures the public imagination and celebrates a sense of national cultural identity.
Although writing in English, Dylan’s reading style springs directly from the tradition of bardic recitation characteristic of Welsh language poetry. From within the orchestra Dylan's voice can be heard, sometimes clearly, at other times more deeply enmeshed in the orchestral texture. Thus, the technical and compositional approach of Fern Hill draws out the inherent song-speech style of Dylan’s recitation.
‘Fern Hill’ was commissioned for ‘Dylan Thomas 100’ and premiered by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, with simultaneous live broadcast on BBC Radio 3. It won first prize and in the KLANG competition (Montpellier) 2016 and was given its French Premiere by Orchestre national Montpellier–Occitanie in 2018.
- Author contribution statement
- English abstract