Four Odes after Rumi
The full version places two choirs arranged stereophonically around
the trombonists. The four odes are paeons to life. In two of them, Rumi
adresses Shams, a mystic teacher, who changed Rumi's life. I have taken
the figure of Shams to represent Life, or the ineffable, itself.
The first ode "Don't Unstring the Bow" makes full use of the
stereophonic placement. At the outset, the choir has a stuttering quality,
unable as yet to give full utterance to Rumi's definite cry for liberation.
This moves through a canon of doubt to a full passionate climax of faith.
The second ode, "When it's cold and it's raining", is quietly
contemplative, as of a whisper to a child or a loved one.
In the third ode, "Note how each particle moves" the trombones
reintroduce the leitmotif which began the whole work. This develops into
a moving canto firmo, over which the choirs, again utilising the full
stereo effect of their placement, sing of the wonder of life in its myriad
I wanted the fourth ode, "When I die, do not weep", to be a personal human statement, thus features the choirs alone. It is introduced by a solo voice, under which a softly rolling theme develops, representing Rumi's "sunset moonset". At the end, Rumi's words of praise "Your mouth opens here and closes there with a shout of joy" is not a loud affirmation, but a quiet coming together of the two choirs, which echo into almost meditative silence.
James Bryce was born in 1950, and,
at the age of 13 (under the combined influence of Stravinsky's "Rite
of Spring" and then-current rock bands) set about writing pop songs
while exploring the weirdest chords he could find. In the late sixties
he studied briefly under John Purser and Cedric Thorpe Davie, but describes
his main training as "Listening, listening, listening, writing, writing,
Through the years, he has continued to write in a number of genres, while pursuing a career as an actor, and has written music for a number of theatre companies. For a time he led an ensemble in London, combining elements of jazz, rock and the classics (the Glasgow Herald once described his popular songs as "somewhere between boogie-woogie and advanced atonality."), then, in the mid-nineties, realising his musical self wouldn't go away, he decided to devote himself more fully to composition, and took part in workshops with John Metcalf and Edward McGuire. Since then, he has produced works for saxophone, choir, brass band, handbells, string quartet, and writes regularly for Radio and Television .
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