|Harrison, Colvig, and some of their instruments.|
|Harrison's Tenor Bells instrument|
|Just Strings: John Schneider, T.J. Troy, and Alison Bjorkedal|
The radiant sounds of the bell tube instruments also show up in a 1972 Solo and in the quirky score Harrison wrote for James Broughton's 1987 film Scattered Remains. (MicroFest screened the original Scattered Remains at UCLA last month.) Although the ever-practical Harrison later adapted this score for conventional chamber orchestra, the more intimate original version includes unusual percussion, retuned harpsichord, and the sonorities of the justly tuned bells. It's possibly the closest Harrison ever got to the then-popular minimalist style.
|Varied Trio: Yuri Inoo, Aron Kallay, and Shalini Vijayan|
Even so, the original version presented difficulties to Steinberg, Abel, and Winant if they wanted to tour with the piece, so Steinberg arranged it for their trio with a piano in the standard tuning of equal temperament. As far as I know, the original version has never been performed since its original performances in 1987. The difference in instruments makes the Trio and Quintet almost completely different compositions. For example, the first movement pairs one of Harrison's alluring violin melodies with an ensemble based on the forms and patterns of Javanese gamelan (its title, "Gendhing," is the Javanese word for gamelan composition). In the Quintet version to be revived this month, the interweaving just intonation bell instruments sparkle within an entirely different texture than what can be coaxed from the conventional piano.
Harrison was a prolific composer (the works list in our book contains over 400 entries), and he often did not shy away from exotic demands even in some of his most enchanting works. I hope you can join us at this unusual opportunity in Pasadena May 12.
©2017 Bill Alves & Brett Campbell. If you enjoyed reading about Harrison’s music, there’s a lot more where that came from. Our new biography of Lou Harrison is now available from Indiana University Press and elsewhere.