28 June 2013


Tony Coe for EMI Lansdowne Series from 1976.

Mary Thomas (vo), Norma Winstone (vo), James Gregory (fl, piccolo), Alan Hacker (cl, bcl), Francis Christou (cl, bcl, ss), Edward Planas (cl, bcl). Tony Coe (cl, bcl, ss, ts), Derek Watkins (tp, flh), Henry Lowther (tp, flh), Kenny Wheeler (tp, flh), Martin Drover (tp, flh), Chris Pyne (tb), Geoffrey Perkins (bass tb), Bill Geldard (bass tb), Trevor Tomkin (perc), Frank Ricotti (perc), Pat Smythe (p, elp, org), Bob Cornford (p, cond), Philip Lee (g), Jennifer Ward-Clarke (cello), Peter Willison (cello), Allen Ford (cello), Vivian Joseph (cello). Daryl Runswick (b)
Recorded under the personal supervision of Denis Preston at Lansdowne Studios London.
Based on poems by Jill Robin

First time out in blogland for this obscure piece of British jazz - a colossal work that blends jazz, rock and classical music.
The composer writes:
When I first thought of the opening of Zeitgeist I soon discovered that the five notes which comprised it suggested a twelve note row - the remaining seven notes following almost as a matter of course - and it is upon this row that the whole piece is based .It opens with a solitary B- flat high on bass clarinet.This is symbolic of the flower and on the words "take this flower" this same note is joined by one a tone below,"Her Days Are Numbered" being reflected musically by a three note figure based on fourths.After some more spoken lines the speaker Mary Thomas becomes singer introducing a chorale like theme "Ah This World" which is heard in canon.
Soon we are plunged into a most violent section expressive of the dissonance and relentlessness of our industrial age and also symbolic of the vicissitudes of modern life.As the noise fades we find ourselves in a rock section.This introduces Norma Winstone who in the spell of the unyielding and hypnotic rhythm attempts to persuade Mary to "join the dance" Mary resists but Norma, after an improvised solo of seductive persuasiveness, finally wins her over.
Then follows some soliloquising from Mary ending in a plea for help, and this takes us into a duet for trumpet (Henry Lowther) and myself on bass clarinet, in which we utilise the note row as a basis for improvisation and during which the ensemble enters periodically to eat up, so to speak, some of our available notes limiting us to more and more with each entry. On the very last brutal cord of this section we are forced to two high notes from which we subsequently descend to "Brother and Sister" sung by Mary & Norma.This culminates in a drum duet by Trevor Thompson and Frank Riccoti in which there 12 drums are tuned to a note row.An ensemble section which ends on a held note on soprano saxophone brings us to the close of side one.
This last note is picked up by Norma at the commencement of side two and leads into the "Love Song" the bass notes and harmony which derives from the note row.To follow there are solos by Phil Lee (guitar) and Kenny Wheeler (fluglehorn) and then Mary sings an inverted version of the song accompanied by Bob Cornford who lays down his baton for the piano keyboard.
A return to the original version of the "Love Song"  is followed by a cadenza written for Alan Hacker in which he plays canons bringing out different voices thereof by using contrasting registers of the clarinet and ending with one of his celebrated harmonic glissandi which leads into the final section. Here Norma and later Mary sing "We are Together" with solos from myself on soprano saxophone, Henry Lowther, Frank Ricotti, on vibraphone and Phil Lee. The singers then re-enter and the song is gradually undermined by the chorale like theme which starts on 'celli and is canonically treated .This section reaches a climax then there is a disintegration into an atonal passage.The work ends on a solitary note with which it began-a note transformed in meaning now symbolizing not the doomed flower but the eternal spirit of man-in other words a note of hope.
I should like to dedicate this work to memory of Alban Berg.