incipits

2003

An incipit is the series of words which appears at the beginning of a poem or other literary piece. The term is also applied to music where one may view the opening measure or measures of a piece of music in the context of an index.

In my work Catacombs from the year 2000, I used a book of orchestral excerpts for the flute as the basis of an entire concerto. I was drawn to the idea (and to the irony) of how an austere event such as an orchestral audition could be transformed into a musical experience in its own right for the general public. In incipits, I postulated what it mike be like if a musician seated at the piano never cared to leave the index page of musical examples - that is to say, what if this reference page was a complete musical statement in and of itself?

The index page in question is from a collection of keyboard sonatas by the rococo-period composer Domenico Scarlatti. For the most part, the source material for this work is drawn from the short two or three bar fragments which appear in the index, although the two complementary sections of the B-minor sonata (Longo 33) are used in their entirety, and serve as a kind of demarcating device with regards to the work's larger structure.

Unlike many of the other fragmentary pieces of my recent output, this work is more clearly broken into a smaller number of longer sections comprised of fragments which are unified by textural or gestural content. In addition, the breaks between fragments are no longer treated as indeterminate lengths, but rather as relations of the global tempo which is used from section to section, creating an illusion of pseudo-continuity.

Incipits was commissioned in 2001 by the Standing Wave ensemble through the Canada Council for the Arts.


Chris Paul Harman CA

Chris Paul Harman was born in 1970 in Toronto where he studied classical guitar, cello and electronic music with Barton Wigg, Alan Stellings and Wes Wraggett, respectively, from 1982-1989. In 2007, he undertook graduate research at the University of Birmingham (UK) under the supervision of Vic Hoyland, earning a PhD in music composition in 2012.

His works have been performed by ensembles and orchestras in Canada and abroad, including the Asko Ensemble (Amsterdam), CBC Radio Orchestra (Vancouver), Esprit Orchestra (Toronto), Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Noordhollands Philharmonisch, Philharmonia Orchestra (London), Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

In 1986, Mr. Harman was a finalist in the CBC Radio National Competition for Young Composers. In 1990, he was the Grand Prize Winner in that same competition for his work Iridescence, which was subsequently chosen as the Selected Work in the category for composers under 30 years of age at the 1991 International Rostrum of Composers in Paris.

Mr. Harman’s work Uta received an honourable mention at the Gaudeamus International Music Week in 2001. That same year, his work Amerika was awarded the Jules Léger Prize and was short listed for the Prix de Composition de la Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco. In 2007, Postludio a rovescio, commissioned and premiered by the Nieuw Ensemble of Amsterdam, received the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music.

Since 2005, Mr. Harman has served as a professor of composition at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University in Montreal.

Chris Paul Harman