Scottish Chamber Orchestra set to mark 40th birthday in 2014
Performance of specially commissioned piece from Martin Suckling titled Six Speechless Songs
How better for an orchestra to celebrate its 40th birthday than with a new piece of music? The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is doing exactly that with the specially commissioned Six Speechless Songs by Martin Suckling. The title comes from the final lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet no 8 – ‘Whose speechless song being many, seeming one, Sings this to thee: “Thou single wilt prove none”’ – which compares the state of marriage and family to strands of music combining together in harmony.
‘The lines appeal to me as a new father – my daughter was born while I was writing this piece – and allow me to link her birthday with the SCO’s birthday,’ says Suckling. ‘As a violinist, I think of music most directly in terms of melody, and so a “speechless song” for orchestra chimes with my musical instincts.’ Scored for regular chamber orchestra forces, each ‘song’ treats the ensemble slightly differently. In the first, it’s a single, gigantic instrument while in the third, it becomes a collection of soloists. Suckling often uses microtonality in his music, but, he says, ‘One of the things that surprised me in writing this piece was that as the drafts progressed, the microtones disappeared. So, even though there are spectra and resonances written into the music, it’s all done with standard 12-note equal temperament.’ Most importantly, it’s about different types of melody and ways in which individual lines can contribute to a coherent whole. Composing for such a significant occasion was not easy, though. ‘Thinking too hard about it is a sure-fire way to freeze up,’ says Suckling. ‘On the other hand, it’s important to acknowledge that the piece is for a celebration. I wrote an awful lot of material that was subsequently thrown away because it didn’t measure up.’
Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Thu 6 Feb; City Halls, Glasgow, Fri 7 Feb